The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312;

Democracy Restoration Act Needed To Restore Voting Rights Of Millions Of Americans

Critical Civil Rights Bill Introduced In House Of Representatives And Senate

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Senate
Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution Chairman Russ Feingold
(D-WI) introduced bills in both chambers of Congress today that will
restore voting rights to millions of American citizens with past felony
convictions. An estimated 5.3 million citizens cannot vote as a result
of felony convictions, and nearly 4 million of those individuals are
living and working in their communities. The Democracy Restoration Act
of 2009 is a welcome measure that will establish a uniform standard
restoring voting rights in federal elections to millions of Americans
who are not incarcerated, but continue to be denied their ability to
fully participate in civic life.
have vastly different approaches to permitting citizens with past
criminal convictions to vote. For example, 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 states, Maine and Vermont, allow all persons
with felony convictions to vote, even while incarcerated; all 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 following can be attributed to Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Legislative Counsel:
Democracy Restoration Act is necessary to restore the voting rights of
millions of American citizens who have had their right to vote revoked
because of a past felony conviction. These citizens work, pay taxes,
live in our communities and bring up families, yet they are without a
still, felony disfranchisement laws are rooted in the Jim Crow era and
were intended to bar minorities from voting. To this day, they continue
to have a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Moreover,
revoking the right to vote for millions of citizens is not only
undemocratic, it is counterproductive to the rehabilitation and
reintegration into society of those released from prison."
A copy of our factsheet on the Democracy Restoration Act is available online at
A copy of the ACLU/Brennan Center
report on felon disfranchisement, entitled "De Facto
Disenfranchisement," is available online at

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666