6,000 Coloradoans Illegally Excluded from Voting, Says ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Colorado
November 3, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU of Colorado
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DENVER — While thousands of Colorado citizens cast their ballots on November 1, more than 6,000 Coloradoans were illegally excluded from the polls by a state statute enacted in the early 1990s, according to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

The Colorado statute forbids persons on parole from voting or registering to vote. However, the ACLU said that under the Colorado Constitution, offenders lose their right to vote only during the time they are incarcerated in prison. Their right to vote is automatically restored when they complete their sentences and are released on parole, Silverstein said.

“”More than 6,000 Coloradoans on parole have completed their prison sentences, and they should be entitled to vote under the Colorado Constitution,”” Silverstein said. “”We believe that this Colorado statute violates the state constitution, and the ACLU plans to raise this issue in the legislature and the courts in the coming months.””

Around the country, as many as five million Americans are barred from voting by a variety of state laws that forbid citizens with felony convictions from voting for some period of time. In some states, these people are barred from voting for the rest of their lives. About a dozen states restore the right to vote when an offender leaves prison, and others restore the right to vote after parole is completed. In two states, prisoners can vote while they are serving their prison sentences.

“”Restoring the right to vote to former prisoners is consistent with our country’s principles of fairness and equal protection,”” Silverstein said. “”We should encourage rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Former prisoners are more likely to respect our legal system and to feel they have a stake in society when they are not deliberately excluded from the democratic process.””

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