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Alabama Special Election Revives the Civil Rights Movement to Restore Voting Rights to Millions of People Nationwide

Nationwide, 48 states could repeal similar restrictions, potentially adding six million eligible voters in coming elections

DOTHAN, Alabama - Years of work to restore voting rights and re-enfranchise voters contributed to the victory in the Alabama election of Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Ten thousand newly eligible voters were registered and turned out, many by absentee ballot from jail or prison, as part of the “Souls to the Polls” campaign.

“The victory in Alabama on Tuesday is the beginning of a new chapter in the civil rights movement nationally,” said Pastor Kenneth Glasgow  “Mass incarceration has taken freedom and voting rights away from more than six million people, mostly black people, across the nation. Restoring those rights will help bring a powerful new voice to future elections – and candidates will have to respond.”

Many of the voters are currently or formerly incarcerated Alabama residents who had their voting rights restored through the “We All Count” campaign led by Glasgow’s The Ordinary People Society. Glasgow pushed legislators last May to pass the “Definition of Moral Turpitude Act.”

Tuesday’s results showed an unprecedented increase in black voter turnout, topping the numbers in Alabama to elect Barack Obama nine years ago by 2 percent. But there have been hurdles along the way and still many ahead. Glasgow has met with resistance, attacks and death threats like those encountered during the Civil Rights Movement 60 years ago.  

Roy Moore attacked Glasgow’s efforts. Limestone Prison and Pickens County Jail refused to allow “We All Count” inside, openly defying the new law passed this summer. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill refused to inform restored voters of their rights, despite Glasgow’s push.

As of 2016, an estimated 6.1 million people nationwide are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction.

Every state disenfranchises those with convictions (except the two whitest states (Vermont and Maine), disproportionately silencing black voters and denying them participation in democracy.

Alabama is one of eight states (Tennessee, Connecticut, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa are the others) that prevent anyone from regaining their vote until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. That “poll tax” has created an underclass of people unable to vote because they do not have enough money.

Twenty-one other states require completion of parole and/or probation – which is contingent on repayment of all legal financial obligations – before allowing a person to vote.

People’s Action supports the work of Pastor Glasgow and the “We All Count” campaign.

For more information, contact Brandon Sturdivant, lead organizer for Decarceration at People’s Action, at b.sturdivant@peoplesaction.org and Pastor Kenneth Glasgow at topssociety@yahoo.com.

Glasgow’s book about the effort, Let My People Vote, will be released in May 2018.

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People’s Action is a national network of organizations with a million people across 29 states.

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