WASHINGTON BUREAU • NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE
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DATE: April 13, 2005
TO: Concerned Parties
FROM: Hilary O. Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau
NAACP SUPPORTS VOTER RENFRANCHISEMENT FOR REHABILITATED FELONY OFFENDERS
Almost 4 million Americans, or 1 in 50 American adults, are not allowed to vote because they have been convicted of a felony, regardless of the nature or seriousness of the offense. Three fourths of these Americans are no longer in jail. 13% of African American males - 1.4 million - are prohibited from voting.
Furthermore, state laws vary when it comes to defining a felony and in determining if people who are no longer incarcerated can vote. Thus it is possible that in some states, a person can lose their right to vote forever if he or she writes one bad check. Furthermore, the process to regain one's right to vote in any state is often difficult and cumbersome. Most states require specific gubernatorial action, and in 16 states federal ex-felons need a presidential pardon to regain their voting rights.
The "war on drugs" has had a disproportionate impact on African Americans; between 1985 and 1995, there was a 707% increase in the number of African Americans in state prison for a drug offense, compared to a 306% increase for whites over the same period. Thus African Americans are disproportionately losing their right to vote, even after they have paid their debt to society.
Because voting is such an integral part of being a productive member of American society, the NAACP has worked closely with other like-minded groups to develop legislation that would allow felons who are no longer incarcerated to reintegrate themselves into society and vote in federal elections. Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced this legislation, H.R. 1300, The Civic Participation and Rehabilitation Act of 2005. Furthermore, re-enfranchisement for rehabilitated felony offenders is part of the continuing election reform package introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) (S. 450) and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) (H.R. 939).
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RE: RE-ENFRANCHISEMENT OF REHABILITATED EX-FELONY OFFENDERS
Dear Congressman / Senator ____________________________;
I am writing to let you know of my strong support for allowing ex-felony offenders, men and women who have served their time and paid their debt to society, to regain their right to vote. Specifically, I strongly support legislation in the US Senate and House (H.R. 1300, the Civic Participation and Rehabilitation Act of 2005) that would allow people who have been convicted of a felony and who are not incarcerated to vote in federal elections.
This legislation is needed to address existing felony disenfranchisement laws that currently disqualify almost 4 million Americans, none of whom are incarcerated, from voting. As a result of these laws roughly 1 out of every 50 adults in this country is not allowed to participate in the most fundamental aspect of being an American citizen. Furthermore, because these laws vary dramatically between states, as does the definition of a felony, it is possible that a young man or woman who writes one bad check can be banned from voting for the rest of his or her life.
Furthermore, the "war on drugs" has resulted in a disproportionate number of African Americans, especially African American men, being convicted of felony offenses. As a result, 13% of all African American men today are prohibited from voting. Felony voting restrictions are the last vestige of voting prohibitions; when the U.S. was founded, only wealthy white men were allowed to vote. Women, minorities, illiterates and the poor were excluded. These restrictions have all been eliminated over time, often with much debate and rancor. People who have served their time and been released from prison are the last Americans to be denied their basic American rights.
Because the right to vote is such an integral and basic element of being an American citizen, it seems to me that we should be encouraging ex-felons to participate in the electoral process, not prohibiting it. Thus I strongly urge you to support H.R. 1300, Congressman Conyers' Civic Participation and Rehabilitation Act of 2005 as well as any future legislation which may be introduced in the Senate. I hope that you will co-sponsor and support these bills and that you will contact me soon to let me know what you are doing to promote this legislation, and what I can do to help.
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