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September 12, 2008

Disenfranchisement News

New York: Voting Rights Education Hits the Road
Nevada: Automatically Eligible, but You Have to Know the Rules
North Carolina: Campaigning off the Beaten Path
Tennessee: NAACP Offers Restoration Assistance

New York: Voting Rights Education Hits the Road
The New York Civil Liberties Union this week launched a six-week campaign to educate county election boards and formerly incarcerated individuals on voting rights for those with felony offenses. New York City and Buffalo trains and buses have donned print ads which state: “You have the right to vote … even if you have a criminal record.”

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “There is a mistaken belief that those with criminal records permanently lose their right to vote. As a result, thousands of New Yorkers are either unnecessarily forfeiting their rights or being unlawfully denied their right to vote." State law bans those incarcerated and on parole from voting, but individuals can vote while on probation.

The organization is also active in supporting a bill that would require the state to notify former inmates of their voting status. The bill would provide eligible voters assistance with registration and absentee ballots. It would also require the state Department of Correctional Services to share data with the state Board of Elections to prevent eligible voters with felony convictions from being turned away at voting booths, according to the Press & Sun Bulletin. For more information, click here.

North Carolina: Campaigning off the Beaten Path
Democratic Party campaign supporters have taken to jails to educate inmates on their right to vote, the Durham Herald Sun reported. One delegate went to Durham County Jail in an effort to let inmates with misdemeanors know that they could still register and vote by absentee ballot. The city’s mayor, Bill Bell, stated he’d follow through on a request to ask the Durham County Sheriff to ensure inmates could register and send in absentee ballots. Individuals with felony offenses in North Carolina are banned from voting until they’ve completed their sentence.

Nevada: Automatically Eligible, but You Have to Know the Rules
Individuals with felony convictions in Nevada have been subject to varying restoration procedures over time, according to Public News Service. The problem is that many individuals don’t realize that there are mechanisms by which they can be eligible to vote. Under a 2003 state law, individuals who have completed their sentence for a first-time, non-violent offense are eligible to register to vote. "We're really hoping that we'll get a lot of people involved in this because it's just so important that people participate in civic engagement; it reduces their chances of re-offending, it makes them feel like they are part of the community again, and I think that's just really important in a democracy," said Meredith McGhan, voter restoration advocate for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Tennessee: NAACP Offers Restoration Assistance
NAACP Memphis Chapter is offering assistance to residents seeking voting rights restoration, ABC 24 reported. “I think in order to be a United States citizen, it's important to exercise the right to vote. I think it's critically important, and that's why we fight for individuals who have made mistakes and paid for them,” said Van Turner, an attorney volunteering with the organization. Tennessee law stipulates that most individuals can vote after they’ve completed their sentence. Individuals convicted of murder, aggravated rape, treason, or voter fraud after July 1, 1986 are permanently banned from voting. For more information, call 901.521.1343.

Virginia: Voting Rights Restoration Forum Planned
Norfolk State University's Thurgood Marshall Pre-law Club of the Political Science Department is hosting a restoration of voting rights forum September 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The convening will include assistance with voting rights applications. Virginia permanently disenfranchises individuals with felony offenses. For more information, call 713.582.1316 or visit www.missingvoter.org.

 

Issue Area(s): Felony Disenfranchisement
State(s): Tennessee, New York, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina