Surveying the acronyms, slogans and victim names that serve as titles for measures introduced in Congress and other legislative bodies, some of which may graduate to the U.S. Code and other statute books.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D., MD) has introduced S. 2235, the Democracy Restoration Act, which seeks to enfranchise felons once they have served their time and have been released back into society. Sen. Cardin sponsored a similar bill in the 112th Congress, but it never got out of committee. A partial press release is provided below the jump.
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has introduced a bill, S. 2235, theDemocracy Restoration Actthat would reduce recidivism rates by restoring voting rights to individuals after they have served their time and have been released from incarceration. Studies indicate that former prisoners who have voting rights restored are less likely to reoffend, and that disenfranchisement hinders their rehabilitation and reintegration into their community. Original cosponsors of S. 2235 include Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Companion legislation also was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.
An estimated 5.85 million citizens of the United States – about 1 in 40 adults in the United States – currently cannot vote as a result of a felony conviction. Of the estimated 5.85 million citizens barred from voting, only 25% are in prison. By contrast, 75% of the disenfranchised reside in their communities while on probation or parole or after having completed their sentences. Approximately 2.6 million citizens who have completed their sentences remain disenfranchised due to restrictive state laws.
“When prisoners are released, they are expected to obey the law, get a job, and pay taxes as they seek a fair shot at being rehabilitated and reintegrated into their community. Along with these responsibilities and obligations of citizenship should be the right to vote,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “The patchwork of state laws leads to an unfair disparity and unequal participation in Federal elections based solely on where an individual lives, in addition to the racial disparities inherent in our judicial system. Congress has a responsibility to remedy these problems and enact a nationwide standard for restoration of voting rights.”
In 35 States, convicted individuals may not vote while they are on parole. In 11 States, a conviction can result in lifetime disenfranchisement. Several States require prisoners to seek discretionary pardons from Governors, or action by the parole or pardon board, in order to regain their right to vote. Several States deny the right to vote to individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors. States are slowly moving or repeal or loosen many of these barriers to voting for ex-prisoners. ...