Take Action to Restore Democracy in America: The Democracy Restoration Act of 2014 will restore voting rights in federal elections to the 4.4 million Americans who have completed their prison time and returned to the community.
Voting is a fundamental right. It is not merely a Democratic or a Republican issue, but a human rights issue.
Indeed, the Supreme Court of the United States has stated, “Undoubtedly, the right of suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 561-62 (1964).
However, 35 states continue to disenfranchise citizens through the use of felony disenfranchisement statutes. Currently, 5.85 million people in the United States are prohibited from voting due to felony disenfranchisement laws. Many of these state laws prohibit people with felony convictions from voting even after they are released from prison. In fact, the majority of the disenfranchised people in the United States (4.4 million) have already completed their prison sentences and returned to their communities. Click here to view The Sentencing Project’s Map of disenfranchisement statistics in the United States.
Disparate Impact on Minorities: Disenfranchisement statutes result in a higher percentage of minorities losing the right to vote.
Combined with the “war on drugs” and policies of racial profiling, disenfranchisement laws have had a disproportionate impact on minorities, particularly African Americans. Currently, 7.7% of the African American population in the United States is disenfranchised, whereas only 2.5% of the total population in the United States is disenfranchised. In total, 2,231,022 African Americans have been deprived of the right to vote. Further, many Americans lose their right to vote simply for being convicted of non-violent charges such as felony drug possession.
To help remedy this undemocratic injustice, the Democracy Restoration Act of 2014 (DRA) was reintroduced last week in both houses of Congress. Representative John Conyers introduced the bill in the House (H.R. 4459), and Senator Ben Cardin introduced the bill in the Senate (S. 2235).
The DRA will restore voting rights in federal elections to the 4.4 million Americans who have completed their prison time and returned to the community. It will advance civil rights, strengthen the legitimacy of our democracy, and ensure that our community is not being unfairly deprived of its voice.
We must take action to restore democracy in America. The very legitimacy of our democracy is threatened when our citizens are deprived of the fundamental right to vote.
As Congressman Conyers stated last week,
“Gradually, through centuries of activism and relentless struggle, the right to vote was expanded to all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin. Yet, today in the United States, millions of citizens are arbitrarily denied the right to vote in federal elections simply for having been formerly incarcerated. In essence, this damaging policy is a throwback to an earlier time when universal suffrage was deliberately blocked. As a matter of principle and electoral fairness, it is long past time to restore the right to vote to people with felony convictions living in the community.”