Today, Common Cause released a new report on the impact of denying voting rights to people with past felony convictions and what must be done to strengthen their voting rights. “Zero Disenfranchisement: The Movement to Restore Voting Rights” documents the racist history of felony disenfranchisement laws, the new movement to repeal them, and provides several personal stories of individuals affected by these voter suppression efforts.
“The right to vote is a cornerstone of our American democracy and the birthright of all American citizens. No one should ever have it taken away,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “This new report will help all Americans understand how we can work together to ensure all citizens have a voice in our elections.”
The report outlines how felony disenfranchisement laws were expanded during the Civil War, were exploited extensively to suppress black voting in the Jim Crow South, and continued to be felt disproportionately by minority and low-income communities through the War on Drugs era and beyond. Today millions of people continue to be disenfranchised due to prior felony convictions, including nearly 50% of those who have already completed their sentences. The new report paints a bleak picture of the impact the United States’ mass incarceration crisis is having on democratic participation.
“The time has come to end the practice of disenfranchising people with felony convictions,” said Tierra Bradford, Common Case Maryland Policy Manager. “Disenfranchisement laws not only have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities, but they also have a racist legacy. Fortunately, the Restoration of Voting Rights Movement continues to gain more momentum every year.”
The report goes on to debunk the arguments used to defend felony disenfranchisement and offers a series of solutions to end felony disenfranchisement, including:
- Congress passing new legislation to end felony disenfranchisement laws nationwide
- States repealing existing felony disenfranchisement laws and instead adopting the model of Vermont and Maine which never revokes a person’s right to vote
- Increasing outreach and education by election officials to people with felony convictions about their voting rights and help with voter registration
- Allowing nonprofit organizations to monitor the voter registration and absentee ballot process of incarcerated individuals and to conduct nonpartisan voter education
To read the full report, click here.