Does Government Have to Tell Us When They Change the Law?
A new story from the Daily Beast and the Marshall Project shows that although voting restrictions for ex-offenders are getting looser in a handful of states, many of those potential new voters aren’t aware of changing laws—at least in Alabama.
The law also did not establish a mechanism for notifying ex-felons who became eligible to vote of their eligibility. A federal judge turned down a case brought on behalf of 10 Alabama citizens by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which wanted to require the state to educate the public about the new law. Earlier this year, the Campaign Legal Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center instead launched the Alabama Voting Rights Project, which uses volunteers and nonprofit monies to knock on doors and distribute information in libraries, churches, and jails.
The Campaign Legal Center has projected that tens of thousands of Alabama residents convicted of crimes could now be eligible to vote; they just may not know it. The responsibility for educating these residents is part of the ongoing debate on voting rights for ex-felons.