A bill has been introduced by Democrats Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Peter Welch that would allow convicted felons the right to vote in federal elections, the Associated Press reports.
On Tuesday (Dec 5), the Inclusive Democracy Act was submitted and guarantees “the right to vote in federal elections for all citizens regardless of their criminal record.”
In an official statement, Pressley said that the legislation is critically important because of policies and court rulings that “continue to disenfranchise voters from all walks of life — including by gutting the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, cuts to early voting, and more.” Welch added that the bill will act as a corrective to the “antiquated state felony disenfranchisement laws.”
“With Republicans and the Supreme Court stopping at nothing to undermine voting rights and exclude Black and brown folks from participating in our democracy, we must protect and expand access to the ballot box — including for incarcerated citizens,” Pressley said.
“As someone whose family has been personally impacted by mass incarceration, I know how important it is for people to maintain ties to their community, including by voting,” Pressley continued.
According to a study by the Sentencing Project, approximately 4.6 million American citizens have been denied the right to vote due to a felony conviction, and Black and Hispanic people “are disproportionately likely to be disenfranchised due to felony convictions.”
The legislation also includes a provision requiring federal officials and states to inform incarcerated people of their right to vote in federal elections.
With the exception of the District of Columbia, Maine, and Vermont, the rest of the country has restrictions on formerly incarcerated citizens’ right to vote, the Brennan Center for Justice reports. Currently, 11 states bar formerly incarcerated people from voting in perpetuity as voting laws vary by state.
Danielle Lang, the senior director of the Campaign Legal Center, noted that an additional 18 million people may be disenfranchised from voting because of confusing state laws, excessive paperwork requirements, and the threat of being prosecuted.
As the voting rights of Black and Brown Americans remain in scrutiny, the Inclusive Democracy Act seeks to address voter suppression tactics and legislation that have gone on for far too long.
“We are still in the Civil Rights movement and Jim Crow is not behind us when laws and courts continue to disenfranchise voters from all walks of life — including by gutting the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, cuts to early voting, and more,” Pressley said. “We must reject this unjust status quo and advance bold policies to strengthen our democracy and make it more inclusive.”
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