Alert: End Arbitrary Access To the Voting Booth
End Arbitrary Access to the Voting Booth
Nearly 100 years ago, states across the South convened
constitutional conventions that sought to deny African Americans
the right to vote. To achieve their goal, the state conventions
passed numerous voting restrictions: literacy and property tests,
criminal disenfranchisement laws, poll taxes and grandfather
clauses. "Discrimination -- that, exactly, is what this convention
was elected for...with a view to the elimination of every negro
voter," a delegate in Virginia said. Since then, legislators and the
courts have jettisoned most of those biased laws. However, one
glaring exception remains -- criminal disenfranchisement laws.
Currently 3.9 million Americans are disqualified from voting
because of an inconsistent patchwork of state laws that
disenfranchise citizens who have been convicted of a felony.
Experts believe that in seven states one in four black men has
permanently lost the right to vote. No other democratic nation
indefinitely disenfranchises as many people because of felony
The first step toward alleviating this lingering form of discrimination
is to pass legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).
The "Civic Participation and Rehabilation Act," H.R. 906, would
guarantee that citizens who have paid their debt to society and are
no longer incarcerated regain the right to vote in federal elections,
even if they are barred from voting in state elections.
There is no rationale for criminal disenfranchisement laws. As the
Ninth Circuit observed over two decades ago, “courts have been
hard-pressed to define the state interest served by laws
disenfranchising persons convicted of crimes.”
Support This Legislation!
Criminal disenfranchisement laws were passed with
racially discriminatory intent and they continue to have
racially discriminatory results.
Felony disenfranchisement statutes are the last vestige of voting
prohibitions and should go the way of literacy requirements and
the poll tax.
Felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately
dilute the voting rights of African American citizens.
The Sentencing Project and Human Rights Watch estimate that “in
states that disenfranchise ex-felons, 40 percent of the next
generation of black men is likely to lose permanently the right to
vote.” Blacks are five times as likely as whites to be
disenfranchised under felony voter laws. This disproportionate
impact is a result of bias in the law enforcement system. According
to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, twice as many
whites as blacks use crack. Yet “drug czar” Barry McCaffrey
noted that nearly 90 percent of the people locked up for crack
under federal drug laws are black.
Once an ex-offender has paid his debt to society, it is in
everyone’s best interest that he be allowed to rejoin the
larger community with the full rights of citizenship.
1.4 million Americans remain disenfranchised even though they
have completed their sentence. If ex-offenders are indeed
expected to become productive, law-abiding members of society,
they should not be disconnected from our key democratic
institution – voting.
Fax your U.S. Representative
What are the Police and Church groups afraid of ? Are they afraid that
ex-felons can make better voting decisions than them?