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Rep. Pressley introduces legislation to guarantee right to vote for people with felonies on record

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill that would allow people convicted of felonies to vote in federal elections, but if the proposal becomes law, millions of people would have the right to vote in U.S. elections. may be recovered.

Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Senator Peter Welch of Vermont on Tuesday introduced a bill, dubbed the Inclusive Democracy Act, that would guarantee all citizens the right to vote in federal elections, regardless of their criminal background. submitted.

Minnesota law allowing ex-felons to vote goes into effect

Pressley said in a statement that the bill is needed because of policies and court rulings that “continue to disenfranchise voters from all walks of life, including by watering down the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, and cutting back on early voting.” He said it was. Welch argued the bill was necessary because of “outdated state felony disbarment laws.”

At the end of 2022, about 4.6 million people were unable to vote due to a felony conviction, according to a study by the Sentencing Project, a nonpartisan research group. The same study found that blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately likely to be disenfranchised due to a felony conviction.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has sponsored a bill that would guarantee voting rights for felons in federal elections.

“While the Republican Party and the Supreme Court will stop at nothing to violate voting rights and exclude Black and brown people from participating in our democracy, we will continue to protect access to the ballot box, including for our incarcerated citizens. We must protect and expand,” Pressley said.

The bill also requires incarcerated people to be educated about their voting rights and provided with systems and resources on how to register to vote. The bill also mandates mail-in voting options for people who are incarcerated.

Currently, states and territories determine the eligibility of their citizens to vote for all levels of government. The proposed bill would not change states’ ability to expand or restrict access to state or local elections.

The bill has a long chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House. In 2021, all Republicans and a majority of Democrats voted against an amendment to the then-Democratic landmark voting rights reform bill that would have allowed people with felony convictions to vote. The bill later passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

“As someone whose family has been personally affected by mass incarceration, I know how important it is for people to stay connected to their communities through things like voting,” Pressley said.

Voting rights for formerly incarcerated people can vary widely from state to state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in states like Vermont and Maine, people convicted of crimes do not lose their right to vote in elections, but 11 states generally exclude formerly incarcerated people from voting in elections. Voting is prohibited indefinitely.

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Welch said the bill aims to help voters who are “systematically deprived of their right to participate in the democratic process,” and that the bill would include possible changes to the Voting Rights Act to make it easier to vote. It promised to be part of a broader push for greater rights. and limits on gerrymandering. Although the Democratic Party generally agrees on the need to strengthen voting rights reform, opinions differ on what specific policies are needed.

“As laws and courts continue to disenfranchise voters from all walks of life, including watering down the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, and curtailing early voting, we remain a part of the civil rights movement. Jim Crow didn’t stand with us either,” Pressley said. He said. “We must reject this unjust status quo and advance bold policies that strengthen our democracy and make it more inclusive.”

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