Efforts are underway to restore voting rights to Georgia citizens convicted of a felony, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports.
Over five million people in the U.S. are prohibited from voting because of a felony conviction, 275,000 live in Georgia, and almost 60% of them are Black, reported the May 14 article.
The language of the Georgia law bans voting for those who have been convicted of felonies “involving moral turpitude.” The law fails to define what moral turpitude means, so in practice, the ban applies to all people convicted of a felony, noted the report.
In Georgia the ban includes probation, parole, or any supervised release, which can extend many years after serving time. A felon trying to register to vote can even land back in jail, according to the Law Center.
Two formerly incarcerated women, Kareemah Hanifa and Page Dukes, are part of the restore-voting-rights effort.
“OK, I committed a crime; I served my time in prison. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to cast a ballot and have a say in my government?” said Hanifa.
Hanifa, 44, served 29 years, and her long-time friend, Dukes, 35, served 15 years. They met through their interest in the prison’s choir called Voices of Hope.
The prison allowed them to travel by bus in order to perform. They often talked about their future dreams during these long rides, the report said.
Hanifa is now a bachelor’s degree candidate in psychology, and is the lead organizer at the Southern Center for Humanity. Dukes works as a communications associate with Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a non-profit.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is working on legislative action to restore the rights of Georgians with felony convictions, noted the story.
One in every 17 adults is on conditional release in Georgia, which has the highest supervised release rate in the U.S. This is twice the State of Idaho’s probation rate, which is the second largest to Georgia’s, reported the article.
The majority of felony convictions in Georgia are for drug offenses and non-violent crimes, according to the Law Center.
Many countries let people in prison vote. The only two states in the U.S. that do so are Vermont and Maine.