House Holds Hearing Today On Voting Rights

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Claire O’Brien, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org
 

House Holds Hearing Today On Voting Rights

Democracy Restoration Act Needed To Restore Fundamental Civil Rights, Says ACLU

WASHINGTON -
A House
Judiciary Subcommittee is holding a hearing today on restoring voting
rights in federal elections to millions of Americans who have been
disfranchised because of criminal convictions. The American Civil
Liberties Union commends the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil
Rights and Civil Liberties for holding the hearing, and submitted a
written statement to leaders in the House to pass the Democracy
Restoration Act, H.R. 3335, a bill that would restore one of the most
fundamental rights – the right to vote – to millions of disfranchised
Americans.
 
“Nearly
four million people in America are working, paying taxes, and raising
families in our communities, yet they are unable to cast a ballot,” said
Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
“The strength of America’s democracy relies on the civic involvement of
its citizens, and the Democracy Restoration Act would ensure that all
citizens who are not incarcerated can head to the polls to have their
voices heard.”
 
The
Democracy Restoration Act would restore
voting rights in federal elections to millions of Americans who have
been released from prison, ensure that probationers never lose their
right to vote in federal elections and notify people about their right
to vote in federal elections. The uniform federal standard in
this bill would eliminate confusion for citizens and election
administration officials alike due to variations in state law. Several
law enforcement officials, members of the faith community and civil
rights and legal organizations have spoken out in support of this
legislation.
 
“By
denying citizens the right to vote because of a criminal conviction, the
government endorses a system that expects citizens to contribute to the
community, but bars them from participating in the democratic process,”
said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Thankfully, the Jim
Crow era in which most of these voting policies originated is long gone –
but its impact sadly continues. It’s time that the polls opened their
doors to allow all citizens in our communities the chance have their
voices heard in the political process. The restoration of this basic
civil right is long overdue.”
 
States
have vastly different approaches to permitting citizens with criminal
convictions to vote. Some states permanently disfranchise some, but not
all, citizens with felony convictions, while others allow voting after a
sentence is completed or after release from prison. Two states,
Virginia and Kentucky, permanently disfranchise citizens with felony
convictions unless the state approves individual rights restoration. Two
other states, Maine and Vermont, allow all persons with felony
convictions to vote, even while incarcerated. Other states fall
somewhere in between. Unfortunately, there has been widespread confusion
about the proper administration of state laws that has contributed to
the disfranchisement of even eligible citizens.
 
The
House Judiciary Subcommittee’s hearing on the Democracy Restoration Act
can be streamed live at:
 
The
ACLU statement submitted to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the
Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in support of the
Democracy Restoration Act (HR 3335) is available at:
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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