A campaign is under way to restore voting rights to convicted felons, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Let’s fight to stop this nonsense,” said Damon Stackhouse, a 41-year-old New Jersey native, who was eager to cast a ballot during the previous midterm elections but later learned under state law, because he’s still on parole, he could not vote.
Stackhouse had a decade-old conviction of second-degree robbery.
The Journal reports that states along the northeastern corridor and Deep South, where there is no restoration of the right to vote for felons, advocates are pushing for change. They argue that felon disenfranchisement laws are unfair because they strip away fundamental democratic rights and disproportionately affect Black citizenry.
The rank of those disenfranchised for felony convictions has increased, reflecting decades with incarceration rate growth, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
The numbers grew more than fourfold to 6.1 million between 1976 and 2016, according to statistical reports released by the Sentencing Project, said the article.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
“We have no say. This is the worst thing you can do to a citizen,” said Stackhouse, who is now a construction worker and student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
The NCSL stated for a few decades that there has been a general trend toward reinstating voting rights.
A measure is currently being considered by New Jersey to restore voting rights to more than 94,000 state residents with convictions, reported the newspaper.
People who back the restriction believe ― to regain the right to vote ― those who have committed felonies need to demonstrate they are truly reformed, said the article.
Republican New Jersey State Sen. Gerald Cardinale opposed the measure, saying it’s the risk people who commit felonies assume when they break the law.
The trending topic of state legislatures has led to Maryland lawmakers enacting a law to restore the voting rights for people on parole or probation in 2016. The same year, when he was governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, issued an executive order re-enfranchising people with felony records. Recently, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, appealed a federal judge’s ruling that the states system for restoring voting right to former prisoners is unconstitutional.
“We can see that perception is clearly at work, because Democrats are the ones clearly championing the efforts,” said Hannah Walker, assistant professor of political science and criminal justice at Rutgers.
“Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. He issued an executive order to restore voting rights to 35,000 people on parole this year.
The states of Indiana and Massachusetts automatically restore voting rights for people once they are release from prison.
But in 48 other states, policies vary for people convicted of crimes and their voting rights being removed. For example, Florida and Kentucky revoke the right permanently, and a petition for reinstatement of voting rights is required, said the article.