Excerpts from the NAACP United Nations Panel: “Felony Disenfranchisement and Voting Rights Attacks

America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization leads UN Human Rights Council panel in Geneva on the disenfranchisement of United States Citizens

(Geneva)  Millions of United States citizens are denied the right to vote because they have been previously convicted of a felony offense, according to a panel hosted today by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at the United Nations’ Palais de Nations. Excerpts from the panelists’ testimony are below:

Lorraine Miller, Chair of the Advocacy and Policy Committee of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors: “Today, nearly 5.3 million U.S. citizens have been stripped of their voting rights on a temporary or permanent basis, including more than 4.4 million citizens who are no longer incarcerated.  More than 2 million are African American, yet African Americans make up less than 13% of the U.S. population. We commend US Attorney General Holder for his work to prevent the implementation of recent challenges to voting rights. However, we remain deeply concerned with the continued practice and discriminatory impact of felony disenfranchisement. We are here to urge the United Nations’ Special Rappateour on Racism to investigate racially discriminatory election laws.”

Kemba Smith Pradia, Author & Advocate for the rights of formerly incarcerated people: “Despite receiving Executive Clemency from U.S. President Bill Clinton, one of the collateral consequences of having been incarcerated is losing my right to vote. Nationally, I represent more than 5 million citizens that are disenfranchised from being a part of the political process simply because of past felony convictions. Even if I did understand the state of Virginia’s hesitancy to automatically restore a person with a felony convictions right to vote, how could the state totally ignore that these felony disenfranchisement laws had racial intent and emerged after the 15th Amendment? In 1901, Virginia state delegate Carter Glass stated, ‘This plan…will eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State in less than 5 years, so that in no single county…will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.’ It's time for Virginia to right this wrong and follow suite with the majority of other states across the United States”

Dennis Gaddy, Criminal Justice Chair for the North Carolina NAACP and Executive Director of the Community Success Initiative (CSI):  “I was incarcerated for five years and eight months in the North Carolina Department of Corrections for some poor choices made when I was younger. Rather than being overcome by either success or failure, I studied both, and learned valuable and positive insights from the past. I was a part of the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance’s effort in April 2011 to help create the first Second Chance lobby day in North Carolina with over 200 formerly incarcerated people in attendance fighting for policy change to remove barriers to jobs, housing, education and human services. Americans who have served their time must have their full citizenship rights restored.”

Hilary Shelton, NAACP Senior Vice President for Advocacy: “These forms of disenfranchisement prevent those most in need of an advocate from the ability to elect someone who will represent their concerns:  the need for a decent public education, for a health care system that addresses their specific demographic needs, as well as the creation of decent jobs, a functional criminal justice system and other basic human needs.”

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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