News Release

* The Right to Vote as a Constitutional Right * Barred for Life: Felon Disenfranchisement


Last week, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. introduced House Joint Resolution 28 with 54 original co-sponsors. The resolution proposes to add a new “right to vote” amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congressman Jackson said today: “I first introduced the Voting Rights Amendment on November 6, 2001, during the first session of the 107th Congress. During the entire 107th Congress the bill had zero co-sponsors. It was re-introduced in the 108th Congress — with no original co-sponsors — and after two years of hard work 45 members signed on as co-sponsors. The fact that we have 54 original co-sponsors in the 109th Congress shows that the idea of adding a Voting Rights Amendment to the Constitution is growing by leaps and bounds.”

Jamin Raskin is a professor of constitutional law at American University and director of its Program on Law and Government. He said today: “America is one of the last few nations on earth not to protect in its constitution the right of all of its citizens to vote. We still have millions of people, from Washingtonians to former felons to citizens in Puerto Rico and other territories, who remain totally or partially disenfranchised. The situation is untenable today. The Jackson amendment would reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore that the citizen has no constitutional right to vote.”

Richie is the executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. He said today: “This week, Vermont’s largest city Burlington adopted instant runoff voting for future mayoral elections by a landslide margin. … Legislative bills for instant runoffs were introduced in 22 states in the past two years, with states poised for real action in 2005. … Problems with American elections run deeper than shoddy voting equipment and inadequate election administration. For instance, there is the problem of our top leaders winning with less than a majority of the popular vote. … Fortunately there’s a solution to both problems of winning without a majority or needing a runoff election to ensure a majority winner. It’s called instant runoff voting. IRV elects a majority winner in one election by simulating a series of traditional runoffs. … The topic has drawn bipartisan support from Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democrats such as Howard Dean, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former Vermont governor. Ballot measures supporting IRV passed by 2-to-1 margins in all three cities where it was on the ballot in 2004.”
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Mauer is the assistant director of The Sentencing Project, which has recently released the report “Barred For Life: Voting Rights Restoration in Permanent Disenfranchisement States.” He said today: “This report represents the first national survey of the restoration process in each of the 14 states [which disenfranchise convicted persons even after completion of sentence]. We present data on the number of people seeking to have their rights restored in these states, along with estimates of the total number of disenfranchised persons who have completed a felony sentence. Legislative and executive changes in recent years have made the restoration process simpler in some states. … Despite these reforms, the number of persons who are denied voting rights following completion of a felony sentence is still about 1.5 million in these 14 states. … Procedures to register to vote remain far more complicated for persons with felony convictions than for other Americans. … In all 14 states, some or all persons convicted of a felony can be considered to be permanently disenfranchised. In some states, for example, this can include an 18-year old convicted of a first-time non-violent offense and sentenced to probation.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167