Felons who have served their prison sentences could win back their right to vote under a proposal to be considered next week by a Wyoming legislative panel. The measure, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, would establish a process of re-enfranchisement for nonviolent first-time offenders once they finish serving time behind bars, probation or parole. The ACLU’s Wyoming chapter said the bill would have restored voting rights to 4,200 nonviolent offenders in Wyoming between 2000 and 2011. Current law only allows restoration of voting rights to felons who are pardoned by the governor or who are specifically given the right to vote by the state parole board. But the law doesn’t lay out any criteria for re-enfranchisement, and some members of the board have complained they don’t have enough guidance.
Bob Lampert, director of the state Department of Corrections, told the Associated Press that some studies suggest allowing people to vote encourages them to re-engage in society after serving their time.
“The data suggest that people who have their rights restored and engage in the voting process are significantly less likely to come back to prison than those who fail to engage in the voting process,” Lampert told AP. “So there is some data that suggest that it makes a difference.”