State restrictions on early voting, voter ID laws and regulations on voter registration groups have been getting a lot of attention this year because of the impact they could have on the 2012 election. But there’s at least one voting issue that advocates say deserves more focus: the disenfranchisement of former felons. Nationwide, the approximately 5.3 million Americans with felonies (and, in several states, those with misdemeanor convictions) are kept away from the polls, according to the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU). The organization is sponsoring the Democracy Restoration Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), which would create a federal standard for restoring the voting rights of felons. The ACLU doesn’t have any pipe dreams about passing the law this year, but they’re holding out hope it will have a chance with a more favorable Congress.
The issue of restoring the voting rights of former felons has long been a goal of civil rights groups, who say it is a hold over of the Jim Crow era. But other than a brief appearance in a Republican presidential debate this year after a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC launched ads attacking Rick Santorum for his support of giving felons the right to vote after they served their time, the issue hasn’t gotten much attention.
The issue of felons voting does tend to come up among supporters of voter ID laws who say such laws could keep felons from voting or cite convictions of former felons voting as evidence of why voter ID is needed. Civil rights groups, of course, point out that voter ID laws would do nothing to stop felons from voting. One former felon now working with the ACLU in support of the Democracy Restoration Act said that many of the convictions are a result of felons’ lack of awareness about their inability to cast a ballot.
Full Article: Felon voting rights fight | TPMMuckraker.