Alabama's Silenced Voters Tell Their Stories

August 13, 2018
Issues
Image
Plaintiff Ann Reynolds, disenfranchised voter, with attorney Danielle Lang
CLC Senior Counsel Danielle Lang with plaintiff Ann Reynolds, a disenfranchised voter in Alabama.

Campaign Legal Center has challenged Alabama's felony disenfranchisement law on behalf of Alabamians with past felony convictions. Read these stories of our plaintiffs.  

Larry Joe Newby

Larry Joe, 60, is a U.S. citizen living in Huntsville, Alabama. He has adopted his two grandsons (ages 14 and 15) and is supporting them through private school.  He works for Madison County, and has gained increasing responsibility at work in the 17 years he has been there, now serving as an assistant supervisor. He is married, attends church, and regularly gives back to his community. Yet, he’s unable to vote. 

In 2003, Larry was convicted of receiving stolen property, a minor felony, and sentenced to 17 years in prison. He was released from the state penitentiary in 2007 and completed his parole in 2016. 

Prior to his convictions, he was registered to vote in Madison County, but was removed from the voter registration list by the Madison County Board of Registrars because of his conviction. Larry completed his parole and probation in 2016, and soon after applied to register to vote, but his application was denied because the county claimed his felony convictions were “crimes of moral turpitude.” Under Alabama law, if someone is convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude,” he/she is prevented from registering to vote without applying to the state to restore the right.  

In August, with the help of his probation officer, Larry applied to the state for the restoration of his voting rights. He is hoping he can vote in the 2016 Election.  

 “I would like to have an opportunity to put in a choice for the president.  I’d like to vote for not just for president, but in my district and for governor. Having my right to vote back would make me feel respected as a person.  It would be something I would be grateful for – to have the opportunity to go register to vote and go to the polls. 

I’d like to see my rights be restored as a person with a past history of felony convictions, and I’d like to see other people in the similar situation as me have the right to vote, too. I know several people, from different communities, who I’ve grown up with also make mistakes in their past and still don’t have the privilege to be a voter. In Alabama, there is a high volume of people who don’t have the right to vote, African American men especially. Something needs to be done. You do your time, you pay your debt to society, so you ought to be able to return back home and your society and be able to speak freely and vote freely.” 

Pamela King

Pamela, 58, is a U.S. citizen and lives in Montgomery, Alabama. She was convicted of a domestic-violence related murder in 1990, and she was released in 2010. She must serve life parole, so she’s not eligible to restore her rights and is facing permanent disenfranchisement unless she receives a pardon. Before her conviction, Pamela was registered to vote in Montgomery County, and would like to be able to vote in the 2016 election. 

“Being able to vote means I would have a voice of what goes on in America,” Pamela said. “To have my voting rights back would be a step forward and it would make me feel like a more complete citizen. People have died for the privilege to vote and I would like to be able to vote. I’d also like to see voting rights back for all ex-felons. That’s why I’ve stepped forward to be a part of this case. It would help other people who are trying to get their life back on the right track. We pay taxes, why shouldn’t we be able to vote? 

It’s not right that you come out of prison, but even though you have served your time, it still feels you are unforgiven. Time was hard to do. But it’s hard to live now, too. You can’t apply for a job the same way, you are always excluded from different things. It shouldn’t be that way. You shouldn’t have to keep asking for your rights after you have served your time. I would like for the door of my past to be closed and shut, and to be able to go on and be a regular citizen.” 

Timothy Lanier

Mr. Lanier, 50, is a U.S. citizen and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. He served 18 years in prison. He has never voted and never registered to vote but wishes he could engage in a greater part of his community. He volunteers with the Empowerment Alliance, a group that provides assistance to those reentering the community from incarceration. He would like to register to vote but isn’t sure whether his convictions are disqualifying and so he cannot affirm under penalty of perjury that he has not been convicted of a “disqualifying crime.” 

“I served 18 years in prison.  In order to get a driver's license to search for work, I first had to pay over $4000 DMV fines and fees dating back to about 1989.  I tried to get them waived but couldn't.  My first few months home, I was at a loss.  I was looking for anything to do to become a fully functioning member of society.  I asked my parole officer about getting my voting rights and he told me that I couldn't.  My excitement to be out of prison was quickly dashed at every turn.  The psychological impact of not neing able to vote is astounding.  I lived 18 years in below par conditions and was treated ‘less than’ human.  I get out and realize that I am still considered less than human - not a true citizen. 

"Decisions are still being made for me, but I am expected to prove myself with both hands tied behind my back. I did my time but I’m not allowed a voice in the community that I am expected to reintegrate in. Where is the encouragement and door to establish roots and become a law-abiding citizen?  I have walked out of one cell and into another. I still feel shackled and locked down. 

"Due to the help of my family and friends, I am not desperate - all hope is not lost.  I started working as a personal trainer and was able pay to get my driver's license. I recently completed a truck driving program and now also have my CDL.  I have started a truck driving business called EZ Trucking with a friend and we will employ others like me.  I am also working on starting a nonprofit called the Empowerment Alliance and establishing reentry program. 

"I am doing all of this and still can't vote. 

"I believe the biggest form of voter suppression IS mass incarceration.  There are over 5 million people in the U.S. that are unable to vote due to their prior conviction record.  The overwhelming majority are black men - like me.   

"The impacts of mass incarceration are strategically undoing the positive impacts of the Voting Rights Act, special thanks to the war on drugs. How we determine who has the right to vote, how difficult we make the process of restoration, how we inform/educate citizens about their rights, etc.—reflects the extent to which we value the voices, citizenship and humanity of previously convicted individuals, like me.”