When People Serve Out Their Sentences, They Should Regain Their Voting Rights

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  • dale eisman, claire snyder hall
Common Cause Hails Bill Restoring Voting Rights of People Released from Prison

With passage of SB 242, restoring the voting rights of most people with felony convictions who’ve completed their prison terms, the Delaware State Senate has taken an important step to strengthen justice and democracy in our state, Common Cause Delaware said today.

“This legislation affirms the state’s commitment to provide a second chance to those who’ve served their time in prison after breaking our laws,” said Claire Snyder-Hall, program director for Common Cause Delaware. “We can’t reasonably expect formerly incarcerated people to become productive citizens unless we’re willing to extend to them all the rights that go with citizenship, including the right to vote.

“We salute the lawmakers who passed this bill and we’re pleased that Gov. Jack Markell had already signaled his support,” Snyder-Hall added.

SB 242 would restore voting rights to most people with felony convictions who’ve completed their prison sentences but have not yet fully paid fines and court fees associated with their cases. The fees and fines will not be forgiven, but restoration of their right to vote will not be delayed because they are poor.

Snyder-Hall said numerous studies have affirmed that restoration of voting rights helps those returning from prison reintegrate into the community and reduces recidivism. Requiring the payment of all fees and fines before granting returning citizens the right to vote erects an economic barrier that falls heavily on the poor and is the functional equivalent of a poll tax, she argued.

SB 242 has the strong support of State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove and the Department of Corrections. Law enforcement, parole boards, and religious organizations, along with a growing group of advocates, also support restoring the right to vote upon completion of a prison sentence.

“It’s time for Delaware to take this step, too,” Snyder-Hall said.