Voter Re-Enfranchisement For Ex-Felony Offenders Bill Is Introduced In The House And The Senate

THE “DEMOCRACY RESTORATION ACT OF 2014” WOULD CLEAR A PATH
TO ALLOW EX-FELONY OFFENDERS TO REGISTER AND VOTE IN FEDERAL ELECTIONS UPON RELEASE FROM PRISON

Over 5.8 million Americans are not allowed to vote because they have been convicted of a felony, regardless of the nature or seriousness of the offense. More than one-third of these people are African Americans, and while the laws vary from state to state, in some states, including Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, more than one in five African-Americans have lost the right to vote.

The “war on drugs” has had a disproportionate impact on African Americans; between 1985 and 1995, there was a 707% increase in the number of African Americans in state prison for a drug offense, compared to a 306% increase for whites over the same period.  Thus African Americans are disproportionately losing their right to vote, and having greater difficulty in reclaiming it, even after they have paid their debt to society.

Because voting is such an integral part of being a productive member of American society, the NAACP has worked closely with other like-minded groups to develop legislation that would allow felons who are no longer incarcerated to reintegrate themselves into society and vote in federal elections.  The NAACP supports the “Democracy Restoration Act of 2014,” which allows ex-offenders to register and vote in federal elections as soon as they have been released from prison.  The Democracy Restoration Act of 2014, S. 2235 / H.R. 4459 has been introduced in the 113th Congress by Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI).  The NAACP also supports the Voter Empowerment Act (S. 123 / H.R. 12), which includes an ex-felony offender re-enfranchisement provision. 

Ex-felony offender re-enfranchisement got a big boost on February 11, 2014, when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged states to repeal laws that prohibit the formerly incarcerated from voting.  Although he cannot change state laws, it marked the Attorney General’s latest effort to eliminate laws that he says disproportionately keep minorities from the polls. “It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values. These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed.”

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