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March 27, 2008

Disenfranchisement News

Kentucky: Easing Disenfranchisement Barriers
Florida: Minority Vote Sought After, More Support for Ex-Felons’ Rights
Legislature Compromises, Moves toward Felony Re-enfranchisement

Kentucky: Easing Disenfranchisement Barriers
Carl Wicklund, executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association, argues that felony disenfranchisement is not successful in attaining any law enforcement or community objectives and, in fact, prevents ex-offenders from reintegrating into society as law-abiding citizens.  In an op-ed article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, he supports Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s recent easing of the onerous procedures that ex-felons were required to undergo in order to apply for restoration of their voting rights.  Previously, offenders who had completed their sentences were required to pay a fee, write an essay, and submit three personal recommendations, on top of submitting a written clemency application.  Despite recent steps toward equality for ex-offenders, Kentucky remains one of only two states that automatically disenfranchises all persons with previous felony convictions for life. 

Florida: Minority Vote Sought After, More Support for Ex-Felons’ Rights
Florida’s Republicans are reaching out to the African-American community with proposals to reconcile the state’s racist past, including addressing voting rights for ex-felons.  Top Republican leaders are bolstering support for issues that have long been advocated by black legislators, with the black vote seen as an increasingly powerful vehicle in elections.  Currently over 50% of the state’s prisoners are African-American, reports the Sarasota Herald Tribune.  Sen. Frederica Wilson of Miami, who has pushed for felons’ civil rights for years, now hopes to garner enough support for a bill that would enhance employment opportunities for felons upon sentence completion, in addition to re-enfranchisement.

Mississippi: Legislature Compromises, Moves toward Felony Re-enfranchisement
A resolution in support of legislation that would grant voting rights to persons with felony convictions after they have completed their sentences with a two-year waiting period – except for those convicted of murder or rape – has been approved in the Mississippi Senate, reports the Clarion-Ledger.  Republicans and Democrats have been in extensive dispute over clashing proposals for disenfranchisement reform and voter identification requirements, but the compromise may lead to change in both areas.

Issue Area(s): Felony Disenfranchisement
State(s): Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi