As voter registration drives kick into gear across the country, voting advocates are reaching out to all eligible voters including former convicts. The New York Times reports that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Brennan Center for Justice are all working to register former criminals. Muslima Lewis, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, said:
“Really, you’re not having a full participatory democracy if you disenfranchise so many people. It weakens the whole system and, in particular, communities of color.”
According to the A.C.L.U., only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow prisoners, and felons (any crime punishable by more than one year in prison is considered a felony) on parole or probation to vote. Thirteen states allow those on parole and probation to vote, and 20 states restore voting rights to people who have completed their sentences. In Kentucky and Virginia, people convicted of a felony permanently lose their right to vote.
In Florida, the eligibility of former felons is determined by the seriousness of their crimes. Despite a recent change in felony voting laws, only 9,000 out of a potential 112,000 former convicts in Florida registered to vote in the last year, according toThe Orlando Sentinel.
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