Regaining the Vote: Sentencing Project Report Details State and Federal Activities 1/28/00

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In 1998, a study by Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project found that 13 percent of African American men and nearly four million Americans have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions. Felony disenfranchisement, together with mandatory minimum sentencing and the year 2000 census, were named by Congressional Black Caucus chairman James Clyburn as the most serious current civil rights issues, speaking to a democratic awards dinner last May (

A new report by the Sentencing Project outlines legislative and legal activity in thirteen states and in Congress to address the issue of whether convicted felons and ex-felons should have the right to vote. "Regaining the Vote: An Assessment of Activity Relating to Felon Disenfranchisement Laws" reports the following state and federal activity:

  • Legislation to restore voting rights has been proposed or considered in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Virginia.
  • Inmates' voting rights have been restored in New Hampshire after a state constitutional challenge, and a legal challenge has been brought in Washington state, based on the Voting Rights Act.
  • The Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing in October, 1999, to consider restoring federal voting rights to non-incarcerated felons.
Regaining the Vote also reports that Utah voters chose to take away the right of inmates to vote, and that a similar measure is being considered in Massachusetts. Affecting felony disenfranchisement indirectly, a 1999 Louisiana vote restricts the set of crimes for which first offenders can receive automatic pardons upon completion of their sentences.

Marc Mauer, Assistant Director of the Sentencing Project, said that "The expansion of the criminal justice system over the past 25 years has created an ever-larger pool of ineligible voters. Current efforts to restore the right to vote to offenders who have 'paid their debt' to society may help to bring the US more in line with other democratic nations."

Regaining the Vote, written by Mauer and Patricia Allard, is available from the Sentencing Project, 1516 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 628-0871, or online at

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Issue #123, 1/28/00 Gore Drug Use Question Leads to More Questions | San Francisco Approves Plan to Issue ID Cards to Medical Cannabis Users -- Buyer's Club Seeks Business License | Britain: Shelter Workers Sentenced to Prison for Refusing to Inform on Clients | UK Police Report: Legalizing Drugs is Obvious Choice | Michigan Initiative Effort to Rely on Volunteers, Enthusiasm | Court Strikes Down Cincinnati Ban | Regaining the Vote: Sentencing Project Report Details State and Federal Activities | AlertS: Legislative Action in Maryland and Virginia | Anderson and Boje Cases Seeking Support | Editorial: A Not So Nutty Professor
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