The Fight to Restore Voting Rights Continues to Gain Momentum

Voter's hand placing ballot into box

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the fight to restore voting rights to citizens who are currently ineligible to vote because of Jim Crow era laws that disenfranchise an estimated six million people convicted of felony offenses across the country. Meanwhile, in The Washington Post, the title of an op-ed by George Will sums up the fight to allow those who have served their time to become fully engaged in their communities, “There’s no good reason to stop felons from voting.” Each piece briefly shares the stories of two men, one in New Jersey and one in Florida — both unable to vote because of previous convictions.

Despite the fact that Desmond Meade and Dameon Stackhouse served their time and would now like to be fully engaged in their communities, they cannot register to vote. Stackhouse of New Jersey told the Wall Street Journal, “We have no say. This is one of the worst things you can do to a citizen.”

In New Jersey, legislators are considering a bill that would get rid of felony disenfranchisement. If passed it would ensure that all citizens have the right to vote regardless of their past. In Florida advocates have taken the fight to the courts with a lawsuit challenging the current voting rights restoration process and to the voting booth with a ballot initiative that would restore voting rights to returning citizens. A Quinnipiac University poll in February showed that voters in the state overwhelmingly support restoring the voting rights at 67 percent with only 27 percent opposing the ballot initiative.

CLC joined the fight in Alabama, challenging one of the most severe and discriminatory laws in the nation. Our legal team has developed a number of legal theories and claims that will create a legally viable pathway for changing the jurisprudence on the issue of felony disenfranchisement in Alabama and possibly nationwide.

Well beyond partisan politics, the voting rights restoration fight is about access to the ballot and the ability of citizens to have a say in our democracy. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated, “Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy.”