As the midterm elections draw closer, Dameon Stackhouse is eager to cast a ballot, but he can’t under New Jersey law because he remains on parole after more than a decade behind bars for second-degree robbery. “We have no say,” said Mr. Stackhouse, a 41-year-old construction worker and student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “This is one of the worst things you can do to a citizen.” New Jersey is weighing a measure that would immediately restore voting rights to Mr. Stackhouse and more than 94,000 other state residents with convictions. If passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled Senate and General Assembly, it would be the third U.S. state, along with Maine and Vermont, to allow people to vote even while incarcerated.
From the Northeast to the Deep South, advocates are working to roll back felon-disenfranchisement laws, saying they are unfair because they strip away fundamental democratic rights and disproportionately affect African-Americans. Those who back the restrictions contend people who have committed felonies need to demonstrate they are truly reformed to regain the vote.
Fights are flaring in several states, including in New York and Mississippi. In 2016, Maryland lawmakers overrode the Republican governor’s veto to enact a measure restoring voting rights for people on parole or probation. The same year, then- Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat, issued an executive order re-enfranchising people with felony records.
Florida is in the midst of a two-front battle. Last month, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida officials appealed a federal judge’s ruling that the state’s system for restoring voting rights to former prisoners is unconstitutional, securing a stay of the order. Meanwhile, an initiative on the November ballot in Florida would restore voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million people with felony convictions.
Full Article: A Voting Rights Push: Allowing Felons to Cast Ballots – WSJ.