Willie Mack of Tuscaloosa contacted CLC's Blair Bowie two weeks ago because he had tried to register to vote and had been denied. Blair, who works with the Alabama Voting Rights Project, a joint project with CLC and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to help Alabamians with past convictions restore their voting rights, checked his record and it showed that he had a trafficking conviction in 1990, which is disqualifying.
Blair told him that the trafficking conviction was disqualifying and that he would need to get a Certificate of Eligibility to Register to Vote. But he insisted that his conviction had been reduced to possession with intent to distribute, a non-disqualifying conviction. Jonathan, a lawyer at SPLC, and Blair, did some digging but couldn't find any proof of that in the Alabama criminal record database, so they knew that even though it may be true, there would be no way for the registrars to know it.
Blair asked Mr. Mack if he could provide documentation of the reduction in his conviction. A few days later he faxed Blair the court minutes of his case and various appeals. Jonathan and Blair looked at it and determined that his conviction had, in fact, been reduced, several years post-sentence.
John Paul, an organizer with the Alabama Voting Rights Project and Mr. Mack then went to the registrar in Tuscaloosa with that record in hand. Together, they advocated for Mr. Mack's rights and Mr. Mack was able to register to vote - for the first time in his life.
Mr. Mack texted Blair afterward to say that, "this feeling is the best."
CLC is working to help as many people like Mr. Mack in Alabama through the Alabama Voting Rights Project, and in several other states across the country, through a national effort called Restore Your Vote. The campaign includes a resource that helps educate people with past convictions in all 50 states about their rights, as well as on-the-ground efforts in Arizona, Nevada and Texas.