This is not some fringe movement. In Wisconsin,the Restore the Vote WI coalition now boasts more than 50 organizations who support the right to vote for ex-offenders immediately upon release from prison. This should be a top priority for Wisconsin's legislators in 2009 as it has been all over the country since 1997.
Think this is a liberal democratic issue? Think again. Republicans all over the country are recognizing the inherent unfairness and un-Americanness of ex-offender disfranchisement and forward thinking patriotic GOP Gov's in both Iowa and Florida's actions are counted in the numbers below. This is NOT a partisan issue. It's an American issue.
I have written about it extensively in the past, and so will not rehash here, but if you want to know what I'm talking about click here and read some of my past posts on it.
And of course reposting this is email from the Sentencing Project is self-serving. Once again, I get to brag about how cool my Senator Russ Feingold is! Wanna do something productive today to enhance our American democracy?
Call Herb Kohl (his number's coincidentally at the bottom of that link I just gave you) and ask him to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Democracy Restoration Act.
Call your Congressman as well and let them know you support the Civic Participation and Rehabilitation Act in the House and that you want them to sign on as co-sponsors.
Don't live in Wisconsin? Then call BOTH your Senators and your representative ask them to sign on to both those pieces of legislation being introduced this week. Make sure you call both democratic and republican representatives! We cannot decide our friends on this issue based on the letter behind their name.
The Sentencing Project today released a report, Expanding the Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, 1997- 2008, that documents a reform movement over the past eleven years that has resulted in more than 760,000 citizens having regained their right to vote.
The report found that since 1997, 19 states have amended felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility. The report's release coincides with the introduction of new legislation in Congress to secure federal voting rights for nonincarcerated citizens.The report finds:
- Nine states either repealed or amended lifetime disenfranchisement laws.
- Two states expanded voting rights to persons under community supervision (probation and parole).
- Five states eased the restoration process for persons seeking to have their right to vote restored after completing sentence.
- Three states improved data and information sharing.
Maryland repealed its post-sentence voting ban in 2007, restoring the right to vote to 52,000 residents.
Florida eased the complexity of its restoration process for persons who have completed a sentence for a non-violent offense.
Governors in Kentucky and Virginia expressed support for voting rights for persons who completed sentence by easing the restoration process and expediting restoration applications, respectively.
North Carolina and Louisiana passed notification bills mandating that the state notify individuals of the law regarding voting rights and the process of registration.
Despite these reforms, an estimated 5 million people will continue to be ineligible to vote in November's Presidential election, including nearly 4 million who reside in the 35 states that still prohibit some combination of persons on probation, parole, and/or people who have completed their sentence from voting.
In response to this fact, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) plans to introduce the Democracy Restoration Act and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) plans to introduce the Civic Participation and Rehabilitation Act this week to restore federal voting rights to all citizens released from prison and living in the community.
-The Sentencing Project