Washington, D.C. — Today, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Democracy Restoration Act of 2019, a bill to restore federal voting rights to all Americans with felony convictions upon release from prison. In response, Danyelle Solomon, vice president for Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:
The enduring legacy of Jim Crow has created a patchwork of racist state laws that disenfranchise individuals with prior felony convictions. Enacted alongside the “Black Codes,” which criminalized African Americans following the end of the Civil War, these state laws continue to prevent millions of otherwise eligible voters from casting their ballots, long after their release from prison. In dozens of states, American citizens with prior felony convictions pay federal taxes but cannot vote in federal elections. In the United States, citizens’ ability to vote in federal elections should not depend on the state in which they reside.
The Democracy Restoration Act takes a critical step forward by allowing all Americans with felony convictions to vote after completing their prison sentence. Civic engagement is essential for a successful democracy. Research shows that returning citizens who work, obtain housing, and participate in their communities are less likely to recidivate. Restoring the right to vote is fair, makes American communities safer, and saves taxpayer dollars in the process.
CAP applauds Sen. Cardin for his consistent leadership on voting rights and criminal justice reform through his reintroduction of the Democracy Restoration Act.
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