July 27, 2009
Tell your congressperson to co-sponsor the Democracy Restoration Act of 2009
Nationally, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote in federal elections because of state laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions. The Democracy Restoration Act eliminates these bans at the federal level, which deny former felons who have served their time, the right to vote and to create a standard for federal elections so that an individual’s voting rights are not dependent on his or her geographic location.
Democracy Restoration Act of 2009:
The Sentencing Project supports restoring federal voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who are not incarcerated. The current patchwork of laws that disenfranchise people with criminal records has created an inconsistent and unfair federal electoral process, perpetuating entrenched racial discrimination. Passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2009 will ensure that all Americans living in the community will have the opportunity to participate in our electoral process.
Use the talking points and sample letters below to persuade your members of Congress to endorse a system of justice where all individuals are treated equally.
1.) Nationally, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of state laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions; over 4 million of them are people living in the community. The Democracy Restoration Act would restore federal voting rights to people not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction.
2.) The state laws on voting by people with felony convictions are inconsistent and disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities. As a result, an individual’s right to vote in federal elections is dependent on his or her place of residence.
3.) Voting is the most basic act of citizenship. Regaining the right to vote reintegrates offenders into our free society, helping to enhance public safety.
4.) Disenfranchising citizens who have been convicted of a felony offense and who are living and working in the community serves no compelling public safety interest and hinders their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
5.) The United States is the only Western democracy that permits the permanent denial of voting rights to individuals with felony convictions.
6.) This legislation would not apply to state elections; the federal government would not be infringing on state’s rights to regulate state elections, only creating a standard for elections for federal office.
Voting policies vary widely across the country. The current patchwork of voting laws means that a person's right to vote in federal elections is determined by where he or she resides. For example, in West Virginia a person who has completed his or her sentence for a felony conviction can vote for President, but next door in Virginia someone convicted of the same offense is barred for life from voting. State laws range between never disenfranchising people because of a conviction and permanently ending voting rights upon conviction.
These disenfranchisement laws have resulted in an estimated 5.3 million Americans currently or permanently losing their voting rights. This obstacle to participation in democratic life is exacerbated by racial disparities in the criminal justice system, resulting in an estimated 13% of Black men unable to vote. It is crucial that Congress make federal voting standards uniform and restore fairness to our electoral system.
When people complete criminal justice supervision and seek to participate in their community, they deserve a second chance to work, raise families, participate in community life, and vote. The current patchwork of voting laws across the country means that a person's right to vote in federal elections is determined simply by where he or she chooses to call home. Congress must take action to fix this problem. Please support Federal voting rights for people with felony convictions.