Hakeem Jeffries Wants the Formerly Incarcerated to Know their Voting Rights
Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) introduced a new bill that would ensure formerly incarcerated individuals are informed about voting rights laws in their states and are given the opportunity to register upon being freed from confinement. The Ex-Offender Voter Registration Act would also require Bureau of Prisoners caseworkers to equip these individuals with relevant information on all states’ voting rights and any voter registration or application forms that they will need to complete in order to vote. “The Ex-Offender Voter Registration Act of 2019 will strike a massive blow against voter disenfranchisement across America,” Jeffries said. “I believe in the power of redemption and that anyone who has served their time and paid their debt to society should have the ability to participate in the bedrock of our democracy.” A record 6.1 million Americans are forbidden to vote because of felony disenfranchisement, or laws restricting voting rights for those convicted of felony-level crimes. The number of disenfranchised individuals has increased dramatically along with the rise in criminal justice populations in recent decades, rising from an estimated 1.17 million in 1976 to 6.1 million today. Currently, laws regarding individuals voting after completing their sentences range widely from state to state, which causes confusion about voter status and makes it more unlikely that those who have served their time and are eligible will register. In 12 states, individuals may lose their right to vote permanently, whereas in 19 states the right to vote is restored after the term of incarceration, parole, and probation. There are two states where voting is unrestricted, consequently allowing prisoners to vote while incarcerated. This bill would not change existing state laws but would inform individuals of their fundamental right to vote. More here.