The state Senate approved Tuesday a bill that would allow felons to vote before they have paid all their fines and fees. The bill, which still must pass the House, is part of a larger package of legislation aimed at helping ex-offenders re-integrate into society after they get out of prison. There are some crimes for which a conviction means the revocation of voting rights, like murder, manslaughter, rape or abuse of office. For other crimes, voting rights can be restored once the person gets out of prison, but only after they’ve paid all the fines and fees the courts levied against them.
Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D- Wilmington East, said those penalties can be “humongous,” which means ex-offenders who are honestly working to pay back their debts can go disenfranchised for a long time. She compared the situation to Jim-Crow-era fees and exams that were designed to prevent black citizens from voting. “It is important that we give them the right to vote, because that makes you feel that you’re a part of society,” Henry said.
Many lawmakers, backed by the ACLU, are gearing up to pass several bills aimed at removing barriers to re-adjusting to life out of prison. The goal, they say, is reducing the state’s high recidivism rate, which some lawmakers peg around 70 percent — if an ex-offender finds a hard time finding housing, a job and other social needs out of prison, they are more likely to re-offend and end up back in jail.
Full Article: Delaware Senate OKs felon voting bill.