Restoration of Rights Bill Passes in Delaware

Once Signed into Law the Bill will Amend the State Constitution

(Wilmington, DE)-- Today, the Delaware Senate passed House Bill 10, the Hazel D. Plant Voter Restoration Act, to automatically restore the votes of non-violent offenders who have completed their sentences 15-6.

“As Americans we believe in second chances and the right to vote,” said Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Today Delaware did the right thing. Today's vote in the Delaware Senate ensures that fellow citizens who have made a mistake, did their time, and paid their debt to society will be able to join the rest of their fellow Americans in performing our civic duty of voting.”

Last year, leaders from the NAACP and partner organizations met with state legislatures to talk about the impact of felony disenfranchisement laws on Delaware voters and appeal for restoration of rights. In February, the groups met to reiterate the need for restoration of rights.

“The vote today is a result of years of advocacy efforts to expand the vote to those that have paid their debts to society,” said Richard “Mouse” Smith, President of the NAACP Delaware State Conference. “This is a victory for voting rights and criminal justice and should be an example to other states also working tirelessly to restore the votes of people who committed offenses in the past, but now are our neighbors, loved ones, coworkers, and fellow taxpayers.” 

Today’s vote culminates a two year legislative process to amend Delaware’s Constitution. The 146th General Assembly passed the first leg of the Hazel D. Plant Voter Restoration Act on June 28, 2012.

“The late Hazel D. Plant relentlessly fought for the empowerment of all Delaware citizens,” said bill sponsor and State Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South. “Today’s vote honors and ends part of that fight and will empower a new group of Delaware citizens that now have a voice in what happens in their communities.”

“The Senate vote reaffirms the 146th General Assembly’s belief that access to the ballot is a tenet of our democracy and a right that we must guarantee to voting aged citizens that are returning to society and reestablishing their lives,” stated Senate bill sponsor Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington.

Governor Jack Markell is expected to sign the bill into law.

Delaware is following the lead of Iowa and Virginia, Republican lead states, who are working to restore the votes of people who were formerly convicted of a felony.

The Restore the Votes Campaign was launched in October 2012 following the NAACP’s delegation at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.  As part of the visit, the delegation held a panel discussion on felony disenfranchisement and the attack on voting rights in states across the nation.

Further data on felony disenfranchisement laws, and their impact on voting aged citizens across the United States can be found here: www.restorethevotes.org.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.  You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our five “Game Changer” issue areas here.

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