Senate Bill Would Reinstate the Right to Vote For Millions of Citizens, ACLU Says

December 16, 2011 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today introduced a measure that would restore voting rights in federal elections for millions of American citizens who are no longer incarcerated but still denied their right to vote because of a criminal conviction.

“Citizens should not be denied their right to vote due to a past criminal conviction,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “They are working, paying taxes, raising families and living in our communities. This bill would ensure that the government does not endorse a system that expects citizens to contribute to the community while denying them their rights as Americans to participate in our democracy.”

Criminal disfranchisement laws, which vary from state to state, prevent an estimated 5.3 million citizens from voting as a result of criminal convictions, and nearly four million of those have been released from prison. These laws, many of which had their origins in the Jim Crow era, disproportionally impact minority citizens. The Democracy Restoration Act would establish a uniform standard for voting in federal elections, ensuring access to the ballot for all those that have been disqualified due to a criminal conviction.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the act in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

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