House Bill Would Allow Felons to Regain Voting Rights – Sun Sentinel

Alan Grayson has taken the fight to restore rights to the US House.  This article is interesting for its simple summarization of the voting rights landscape for felons across the nation, and for Desmond Meade’s comments at the end.  If you haven’t signed a petition to get an amendment to our Florida Constitution to allow people with former felony convictions to vote, please do so now!  We are very close to having enough signatures for judicial review.

Don’t forget to vote on August 30!  And save the date and make your reservation now (I look forward to seeing you on September 21):

  • Wednesday September 21, 11 am: How Judicial Vacancies Impede Access to Justice: Nancy Abudu, Legal Director for the ACLU of Florida. The high number of judicial vacancies on the Federal bench has led to significant delays, and sometimes outright denials, in the appellate context.  Atlantis Country Club, 190 Atlantis Boulevard, Lake Worth.  $20 if register by September 11; $30 after September 11. Register online at lwvpbc.org

~Nancy

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-grayson-voting-rights-restoration-20160526-story.html

House bill would allow felons to regain voting rights

Calling it “the civil rights cause of the 21st Century,” U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has sponsored a bill that would restore voting rights to more than a million Floridians.

The bill, dubbed the No One Can Take Away Your Right to Vote Act, would guarantee that ex-convicts have the right to vote after they leave prison, though it excludes anyone convicted of murder, manslaughter or a sex crime.

Florida, which is one of only three states in which all felons lose the right to vote forever unless it’s restored by the state, has more than 1.5 million citizens unable to vote. That’s about ten percent of the state’s voting age population.

“This punishment is a holdover from less civilized times,” Grayson said, pointing out the law was created in the aftermath of the Civil War as a way to disenfranchise black people.

Currently, some 25 percent of African-American Floridians are unable to vote, despite accounting for about 17 percent of the state’s population.

Grayson estimated that under his proposed law, about 90 percent of Floridians unable to vote would have their rights restored.

felon voting rights map

Nationally, only 14 states allow felons to vote immediately after leaving prison, according to The Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for prison reform. Another four states restore rights after parole, while 18 more do so after probation. Twelve more deny the right to vote to some or all felons until individually restored, as in Florida.

Just two states, Maine and Vermont, allow the currently incarcerated to vote by absentee ballot. Grayson said his legislation would not affect those states.

With many African-Americans in the criminal justice system, and their tendency to vote Democratic, the perception is the bill would benefit Democrats at the voting booth. Grayson said this was not a partisan issue but rather one of civil rights. Many Republican politicians do not see it that way. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has opposed previous efforts to change the law at the state level, saying it is about making sure ex-convicts have proven they are rehabilitated before their rights are restored.felon voting rights snip 2

If Grayson’s legislation fails in Congress – a likely outcome given the Republican majority – he said he would “throw his full weight behind” efforts to get the law changed at the state level through a constitutional amendment. A group called Floridians for a Fair Democracy is trying to do that in time for the 2018 election.

Desmond Meade, one of the organizers of the group, said they’re still gathering the 68,300 signatures to qualify. Meade graduated from law school in 2014, but prior to that, he had been homeless, a drug addict, and a felon.

“In spite of the many accomplishments I made, I am counted among almost two million people in the state of Florida that cannot vote,” Meade said. “In spite of how I’ve been able to transform my life, I’m constantly slapped in the face as a citizen.”

dsweeney@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4605 or Twitter @Daniel_Sweeney