Strategy 2 Empowered Voters

Restore Voting Rights to Citizens with Felony Convictions

Strategy 2
Empowered Voters

Recommendation 2.7

Restore federal and state voting rights to citizens with felony convictions immediately and automatically upon their release from prison, and ensure that those rights are also restored to those already living in the community.

Read in the Report

Felony disenfranchisement

Laws that revoke the voting rights of individuals convicted of felonies have been around since the founding of the republic. Especially in the Jim Crow era, these laws disproportionately deprived African Americans of their right to vote. Today, millions of U.S. citizens—and still a disproportionate number of black citizens—are denied the right to vote because they have committed a felony.

Expanding the franchise

If we want to build civic engagement and commitment to democratic principles, we need to recognize the value of all voices in our communities. Allowing all voting-age citizens living in a community to register and vote would be a major expansion of the franchise and a major step toward a more representative democracy.  

 

Congress and state legislatures should pass legislation that automatically and immediately restores state and federal voting rights to individuals upon their release from prison. These rights should be granted without conditions and should extend to any voting-age citizen convicted of a felony who is already living in the community (this would include those on parole or probation and those who were never required to serve time for their conviction).

2.7 Disenfranchisement Laws.png

Source: Brennan Center

69%
of Americans are in favor of allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after serving their sentences.

Florida’s Amendment 4

In November 2018, the citizens of Florida restored voting rights to 1.4 million citizens with felony convictions through a ballot initiative. The initiative, known as Amendment 4, passed with nearly 65 percent of voters’ support. Amendment 4 is now being undermined through attempts to impose fines and other penalties on individuals before their right to vote can be restored.

“There are [millions of incarcerated people] across the country that don’t have the right to vote [and] do not feel part of this democratic process that we’re talking about. . . . I’m wondering how we can begin to reengage those voices.”
—New York, NY

Champion

Campaign Legal Center and RepresentWomen and Faithful Democracy are committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to reduce the influence of money in politics and to support unrestricted access to voting. CLC supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws.

RepresentWomen works to advance women's representation and leadership through research and advocacy on data-driven systems strategies that enable all women to run, win, serve, and lead in appointed and elected offices in the United States.

Faithful Democracy is a multi-faith coalition of faith-based organizations and congregations who share the moral imperative of fixing our democratic systems. While our partners represent a diversity of beliefs and traditions, we unite around the common goal of creating a healthier, thriving democracy. 

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 2.7 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2021

  • Introduce and get hearings and movement on a federal law to establish voting rights for federal offices for citizens with felony convictions as in the recommendation, with no penalties or requirements to pay fines or other levies.

2023

  • New legislation introduced in each of the most regressive states

2026

  • Voting rights restored in all 50 states