Conyers Reintroduces Legislation Restoring Voting Rights to Ex-Offenders
(WASHINGTON) – Today, U.S. House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) reintroduced the “Democracy Restoration Act of 2014.” This legislation would reinstate the right to vote in federal elections for millions of Americans with a past conviction who are currently out of prison. In the United States today, there are more than 5.8 million individuals who are ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction, yet nearly 4 million of those citizens are no longer in prison and almost 3 million disenfranchised individuals have completed their entire sentence. After the legislation was introduced, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
“Gradually, through centuries of activism and relentless struggle, the right to vote was expanded to all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin. Yet, today in the United States, millions of citizens are arbitrarily denied the right to vote in federal elections simply for having been formerly incarcerated. In essence, this damaging policy is a throwback to an earlier time when universal suffrage was deliberately blocked. As a matter of principle and electoral fairness, it is long past time to restore the right to vote to people with felony convictions living in the community,” said Conyers.
“Apart from being a fundamental democratic right, voting is essential to a formerly incarcerated citizen’s rehabilitation. Ex-felons who have been released from prison, and are living in our neighborhoods, are a part of our community. These individuals who have paid their societal debts are unduly barred from being fully re-integrated back into society by being denied the right to vote. These restrictions serve only to further alienate and isolate millions of Americans as they work to regain normality in their lives.
“Regrettably, there has been an increasing trend towards restricting the right to vote amongst certain states employing regressive practices. These states that are denying voting rights to ex-offenders represents a vestige from a time when suffrage was denied to whole classes of the American population. Just like literacy tests and poll taxes prevented an entire class of citizens - namely African Americans - from integrating into society after centuries of slavery, ex-felon disenfranchisement laws prevent people from reintegrating into society after they have served their time in prison. It is long overdue that these restrictions be relegated to the dustbin of history.”