Restore Voting Rights for the Incarcerated

  • Week of January 28, 2018

Remember our win in Alabama? What you may not know is that, in the weeks leading up to the elections, thousands of inmates registered to vote and voted in the special election. The surge in registration was made possible by a new law signed in Alabama that allowed many inmates to vote. In response, grassroots activists went to prisons, registered inmates, and helped “unlock the vote”.  

Those votes made a difference for Doug Jones. That’s why Wall-of-Us will be focusing on voting rights for the incarcerated, those on parole, and those previously incarcerated this year.

Let’s start with the sobering facts from The Sentencing Project:

The next step is understanding the existing laws (which vary by state). Here is a helpful summary, from the National Conference of State Legislatures:

  • In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated.

  • In 14 states and the District of Columbia, felons lose their voting rights only while incarcerated, and receive automatic restoration upon release.

  • In 22 states, felons lose their voting rights during incarceration, and for a period of time after, typically while on parole and/or probation.

Don’t forget that our criminal justice system already targets our black population, and taking away the right to vote from the incarcerated just disenfranchises them even more. That’s one reason why All-of-us must unlock the vote and fight for our states to be more like Maine and Vermont.

Here’s how:

  1. For our readers in California, support the Voting Restoration and Democracy Act of 2018. See here for everything you need.

  2. Outside of California, research how you can get involved in helping to restore voting rights in your state by visiting the Sentencing Project here.  

  3. If you live in the awesome states of Maine and Vermont, find organizations that are registering inmates and get involved!