ex-felon enfranchisement

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Editorials: America steals votes from felons. Until it stops, our democracy will be weakened | Russ Feingold/The Guardian

In the middle of the hot summer, citizens will gather this week in Florida to champion a ballot initiative to end the state’s permanent felony disenfranchisement. As we face the daily jaw-dropping revelations about the Trump campaign and administration’s actions, keeping our focus on restoring legitimacy to our elections and our democracy has never been more important, and ending the historic wrong of felony disenfranchisement absolutely must be part of our agenda. It seems unlikely that the Trump-Pence “electoral integrity” commission will touch this important issue, and any commission that ignores it isn’t serious about the legitimacy of our elections. The right to vote is the most fundamental right of any democracy, granting it legitimacy as a means of government by instilling power in the people and not in politicians. It ensures “consent of the governed” and holds government accountable to the people: not law-abiding people, or moral people, or any other qualifier, but the people. Read More

Florida: Thousands wait decades to regain the right to vote | Tampa Bay Times

Adam McCracken has a Ph.D., practices psychology in Orlando and is married with two sons. But for 25 years, the state of Florida said he couldn’t be a full-fledged citizen because of a long-ago drug conviction. McCracken served 10 months in a federal prison and five years on probation for possession with intent to distribute LSD. It was a serious mistake. It happened in 1991. He was 21. The case is so old that a Google search turns up nothing. The state of Florida allows McCracken to practice psychology. But he can’t vote. A law-abiding citizen for 26 years, he wants to bury his past. But the state won’t let him. Read More

Alabama: ‘Restoration clinics’ to help felons register to vote under new Alabama law | AL.com

In March 1965, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma served as the starting line of the two famous marches toward Montgomery that propelled the voting rights movement into the national consciousness. Four months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, ushering in a new era of increased access to the polls for African-Americans and other minorities across the South and beyond. On Saturday, a new voting rights effort kicked off inside that historic church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke and Selma marchers nursed their wounds after being beaten by state troopers near the Edmund Pettus Bridge 52 years ago. Read More

National: Millions of American adults are not allowed to vote — and they could change history | Business Insider

An estimated 6.1 million American adults were not allowed to vote in the 2016 election because they had a felony conviction on their record. Most had already served their sentences and returned to their communities. The majority of US states take away felons’ voting rights, occasionally for life. This disenfranchisement affects an estimated one in 40 adult Americans, or 2.5% of the total US voting-age population, according to The Sentencing Project, a group that advocates criminal-justice reform. That number is greater than the entire population of Missouri, and it’s the largest single group of American citizens who are barred by law from participating in elections. Read More

Alabama: Group wants Alabama to educate voters about new voting law | Associated Press

A voting rights group has asked a federal judge to force Alabama to tell people that they could be eligible to vote after previously being disqualified for a felony conviction. U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins on Wednesday scheduled a July 25 hearing on the Campaign Legal Center’s injunction request. The Campaign Legal Center last week asked Watkins to require the state to implement an education campaign and take other steps, after lawmakers approved legislation clarifying which felonies cause a person to lose voting rights. The group also asked the state to reinstate eligible voters and disclose all voter registration applicants and voter registrants who were denied the right to vote on the basis of conviction in the past two years. Read More

Florida: Push to restore Florida felon voting rights gains steam, but obstacles remain | Orlando Sentinel

Desmond Meade of Orlando has traveled from the Panhandle to Miami, all for the cause of restoring voting rights to 1.6 million non-violent ex-felons such as himself. But there is so much more to do. “I’ve put over 150,000 miles on my car,” said Meade, the head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “Whether it’s the rural parts of the state or the urban centers, the message is the same. … Second chances. That’s what it’s all about.” Meade, a former addict convicted on drug and firearm charges in 2001 who later earned a law degree, successfully gathered more than 70,000 verified signatures for his petition to place an amendment to the Florida constitution, which then triggered a review by the state Supreme Court. But despite the successful hearing, in which the court allowed the process to proceed, Meade and his group still have a momentous challenge ahead. Read More

Alabama: Registering felons to vote in jail: How a new Alabama law impacts voting rights | AL.com

Spencer Trawick lost the right to vote when he was convicted of felony third-degree burglary for breaking into a Dothan house in 2015. As an 18-year-old at the time, he had registered to vote only months before he got in trouble, so he was disappointed to learn that he had been barred from casting a ballot in Alabama. But on Monday, Trawick filled out a registration form while inside the Dothan City Jail with the help of Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a civil rights advocate who has been registering inmates to vote for more than a decade. “You’re registered to vote, man! You’re a full citizen now,” Glasgow told Trawick after he filled out a voter registration form supplied by the Dothan pastor. “You can say, ‘All right, I [am] a citizen!'” Read More

Louisiana: Civil rights groups fight to restore ex-felon voting rights | The Louisiana Weekly

Two civil rights groups have joined forces to battle a 2017 trial court ruling that allows the State of Louisiana to deny voting rights to more than 70,000 of its residents. On June 13, The Advancement Project, a civil rights and racial justice program based in Washington D.C., announced their intention to file an appeal in the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit on behalf of the New Orleans-based non-profit organization Voice of the Experienced (VOTE). The appeal challenges a March 2017 decision by 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelley in which he, apparently somewhat reluctantly, upheld current laws that prohibit ex-felons on probation or parole from voting. Read More

Alabama: New law more clearly defines which felons can lose their voting rights | WRBL

A new Alabama law now allows some convicted felons to earn back the right to vote. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed he bill into law in May, reversing the more than century-old rule. While state lawmakers could not decide how to spend nearly $1 billion on prison reform, they could all agree on one thing. After 116 years, Alabama lawmakers decided it was time to let several criminals have a second chance to make their voices heard. The defining, unanimous push behind state Sen. Mike Jones’ (R-AL, District 92) bill ultimately changed a law dating back to 1901. Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-AL, District 80) says the new law specifically lists more than 40 felonies that would automatically strip criminals of voting rights. Read More

Editorials: If you’ve done your time, you should get to vote | Jason Kander/Sun Sentinel

On Nov. 8, 2016, we saw what will probably become one of the most consequential elections in American history, yet one in 10 voting age Floridians was unable to cast a ballot. That’s because Florida is one of only three states in the country — along with Iowa and Kentucky — where any felony conviction results in a lifetime ban on voting. The result? More than 1.6 million Floridians — equal to the populations of Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami combined — are prevented from voting for the rest of their lives. This ban affects Democrats and Republicans alike, but disproportionately affects African-Americans; one third of the people facing a lifetime voting ban are African-American, who make up just 16 percent of the statewide population. There’s only one way that people can restore their right to vote — a process called clemency that is costly and takes years. Read More