Summary

A bill to secure the Federal voting rights of persons when released from incarceration. Read More

Status

This bill was introduced on Dec 16, 2011, in a previous session of Congress, but was not passed.

Bill Text

A BILL

To secure the Federal voting rights of persons when released from incarceration.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ``Democracy Restoration Act of 2011''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings: (1) The right to vote is the most basic constitutive act of citizenship. Regaining the right to vote reintegrates individuals with criminal convictions into free society, helping to enhance public safety. (2) Article I, section 4, of the Constitution grants Congress ultimate supervisory power over Federal elections, an authority which has repeatedly been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. (3) Basic constitutional principles of fairness and equal protection require an equal opportunity for citizens of the United States to vote in Federal elections. The right to vote may not be abridged or denied by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, gender or previous condition of servitude. The 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th Amendments to the Constitution empower Congress to enact measures to protect the right to vote in Federal elections. (4) There are 3 areas where discrepancies in State laws regarding criminal convictions lead to unfairness in Federal elections-- (A) the lack of a uniform standard for voting in Federal elections leads to an unfair disparity and unequal participation in Federal elections based solely on where a person lives; (B) laws governing the restoration of voting...

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Congressional action is needed to establish a federal standard that restores voting rights in federal elections to the millions of Americans who are living in the community, but continue to be denied their ability to fully participate in civic life. In June 2011, Representative John Conyers introduced the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011 in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2212). In December 2011, Senator Ben Cardin introduced it in the Senate (S. 2017). The provisions of the Democracy Restoration Act would: • Restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4 million Americans who have been released from prison and are living in the community. • Ensure that probationers never lose their right to vote in federal elections. • Notify people about their right to vote in federal elections when they are leaving prison, sentenced to probation, or convicted of a misdemeanor. Passage of the Democracy Restoration Act would: • Create a uniform standard across the country in federal elections. • Strengthen our democracy by creating a broader and more just base of voter participation. • Aid law enforcement by encouraging participation in civic life, assisting reintegration, and rebuilding ties to the community. • Facilitate election administration by streamlining registration issues and eliminating the opportunity for erroneous purges of eligible voters. • Eliminate the confusion about who is eligible to vote. As the Supreme Court has said, “[n]o right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” It is time to restore the most precious of civil rights that has been denied far too long to millions of American citizens. http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/aclu_factsheet_on_the_dra_of_2011_112th_congress_12_16_11_0.pdf

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At the urging of more than two dozen civil rights groups, an important piece of legislation was introduced in the Senate today that would give the democratic voice back to millions of citizens. The Democracy Restoration Act of 2011 (S. 2017), introduced today by Sen. Ben Cardin, would restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison and living in their communities. This summer, Rep. John Conyers introduced the bill to the House, where it remains pending. Now, the civil rights coalition–including Project Vote, the ACLU, NAACP, and Brennan Center for Justice, among dozens of others–are pressing members of Congress to support the bill that would help enfranchise at least four million citizens who are currently denied the right to vote, despite the fact that they have served their time. “The United States is one of the few western democratic nations that excludes such large numbers of people from the democratic process,” the groups note in a letter to members of Congress. “Congressional action is needed to restore voting rights in federal elections to the millions of Americans who have been released from incarceration, but continue to be denied their ability to fully participate in civic life.” “The bill is also quite timely in light of the current voting rights climate in this country,” write The Brennan Center for Justice’s Nicole Austin-Hillery and Nic Riley at the Hill‘s Congress Blog. “With so many states doubling down on new voting restrictions that subject voters to onerous photo ID rules, saddle them with proof-of-citizenship requirements, and hinder voter registration drives, members of Congress have grown particularly concerned about the direction in which our democracy is currently headed.” “While federal lawmakers should continue to investigate the effects of these new state laws, they should take affirmative steps to promote political participation, as well,” they write. http://www.projectvote.org/blog/2011/12/democracy-restoration-act-could-help-enfranchise-four-million-citizens/

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Project Vote 3 years ago

Dear Member of Congress: We, the undersigned organizations, a coalition of civil rights, social and criminal justice, and other legal and advocacy organizations, are writing to urge your support and co-sponsorship of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, a bill that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison and living in the community. The current patchwork of laws that disfranchise people with criminal records has created an inconsistent and unfair federal electoral process, perpetuating entrenched racial discrimination. As organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and justice as well as equal rights for all Americans, we strongly support passage of this legislation. Currently, 5.3 million American citizens are denied the right to vote because they have a criminal conviction in their past. Four million of these people are out of prison, living in the community, paying taxes and raising families; yet they remain disfranchised for years, often decades, and sometimes for life. The United States is one of the few western democratic nations that excludes such large numbers of people from the democratic process. Congressional action is needed to restore voting rights in federal elections to the millions of Americans who have been released from incarceration, but continue to be denied their ability to fully participate in civic life. Fortunately, Senator Ben Cardin and Representative John Conyers are lead sponsors of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, which is intended to address these injustices. Criminal disfranchisement laws are rooted in the Jim Crow era. They were enacted alongside poll taxes and literacy tests and were intended to keep African Americans from voting. By 1900, 38 states denied voting rights to people with criminal convictions, most of which disfranchised people until they received a pardon. The intended effects of these laws continue to this day. Nationwide, 13% of African-American men have lost the right to vote. If current incarceration rates continue, three in ten of the next generation of African American men will lose the right to vote at some point in their lifetimes. This racial disparity also impacts the families of those who are disfranchised and the communities in which they reside by diminishing their collective political voice. In this country, voting is a national symbol of political equality and full citizenship. When a citizen is denied this right and responsibility, his or her standing as a full and equal member of our society is called into question. The responsibilities of citizenship – working, paying taxes and contributing to one’s community – are duties conferred upon those reentering society. To further punish individuals who are back in the community by denying them a right of citizenship counters the expectation that citizens have rehabilitated themselves after a conviction. The United States should not be a country where the effects of past mistakes have countless consequences – and no opportunity for redress. Passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011 will ensure that all Americans living in their communities will have the opportunity to participate in our electoral process. A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation, and allowing all persons who have completed their prison time to vote is the best way to ensure the greatest level of participation. We urge you to support the passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011. http://projectvote.org/images/publications/Felon%20Voting/DRA%20-%20Civil%20Rights%20Sign%20on%20Letter%20112th%20Congress%2012%2016%2011.pdf

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APIAVote 3 years ago

Dear Member of Congress: We, the undersigned organizations, a coalition of civil rights, social and criminal justice, and other legal and advocacy organizations, are writing to urge your support and co-sponsorship of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, a bill that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison and living in the community. The current patchwork of laws that disfranchise people with criminal records has created an inconsistent and unfair federal electoral process, perpetuating entrenched racial discrimination. As organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and justice as well as equal rights for all Americans, we strongly support passage of this legislation. Currently, 5.3 million American citizens are denied the right to vote because they have a criminal conviction in their past. Four million of these people are out of prison, living in the community, paying taxes and raising families; yet they remain disfranchised for years, often decades, and sometimes for life. The United States is one of the few western democratic nations that excludes such large numbers of people from the democratic process. Congressional action is needed to restore voting rights in federal elections to the millions of Americans who have been released from incarceration, but continue to be denied their ability to fully participate in civic life. Fortunately, Senator Ben Cardin and Representative John Conyers are lead sponsors of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, which is intended to address these injustices. Criminal disfranchisement laws are rooted in the Jim Crow era. They were enacted alongside poll taxes and literacy tests and were intended to keep African Americans from voting. By 1900, 38 states denied voting rights to people with criminal convictions, most of which disfranchised people until they received a pardon. The intended effects of these laws continue to this day. Nationwide, 13% of African-American men have lost the right to vote. If current incarceration rates continue, three in ten of the next generation of African American men will lose the right to vote at some point in their lifetimes. This racial disparity also impacts the families of those who are disfranchised and the communities in which they reside by diminishing their collective political voice. In this country, voting is a national symbol of political equality and full citizenship. When a citizen is denied this right and responsibility, his or her standing as a full and equal member of our society is called into question. The responsibilities of citizenship – working, paying taxes and contributing to one’s community – are duties conferred upon those reentering society. To further punish individuals who are back in the community by denying them a right of citizenship counters the expectation that citizens have rehabilitated themselves after a conviction. The United States should not be a country where the effects of past mistakes have countless consequences – and no opportunity for redress. Passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011 will ensure that all Americans living in their communities will have the opportunity to participate in our electoral process. A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation, and allowing all persons who have completed their prison time to vote is the best way to ensure the greatest level of participation. We urge you to support the passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011. http://projectvote.org/images/publications/Felon%20Voting/DRA%20-%20Civil%20Rights%20Sign%20on%20Letter%20112th%20Congress%2012%2016%2011.pdf

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Dear Member of Congress: We, the undersigned organizations, a coalition of civil rights, social and criminal justice, and other legal and advocacy organizations, are writing to urge your support and co-sponsorship of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, a bill that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison and living in the community. The current patchwork of laws that disfranchise people with criminal records has created an inconsistent and unfair federal electoral process, perpetuating entrenched racial discrimination. As organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and justice as well as equal rights for all Americans, we strongly support passage of this legislation. Currently, 5.3 million American citizens are denied the right to vote because they have a criminal conviction in their past. Four million of these people are out of prison, living in the community, paying taxes and raising families; yet they remain disfranchised for years, often decades, and sometimes for life. The United States is one of the few western democratic nations that excludes such large numbers of people from the democratic process. Congressional action is needed to restore voting rights in federal elections to the millions of Americans who have been released from incarceration, but continue to be denied their ability to fully participate in civic life. Fortunately, Senator Ben Cardin and Representative John Conyers are lead sponsors of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, which is intended to address these injustices. Criminal disfranchisement laws are rooted in the Jim Crow era. They were enacted alongside poll taxes and literacy tests and were intended to keep African Americans from voting. By 1900, 38 states denied voting rights to people with criminal convictions, most of which disfranchised people until they received a pardon. The intended effects of these laws continue to this day. Nationwide, 13% of African-American men have lost the right to vote. If current incarceration rates continue, three in ten of the next generation of African American men will lose the right to vote at some point in their lifetimes. This racial disparity also impacts the families of those who are disfranchised and the communities in which they reside by diminishing their collective political voice. In this country, voting is a national symbol of political equality and full citizenship. When a citizen is denied this right and responsibility, his or her standing as a full and equal member of our society is called into question. The responsibilities of citizenship – working, paying taxes and contributing to one’s community – are duties conferred upon those reentering society. To further punish individuals who are back in the community by denying them a right of citizenship counters the expectation that citizens have rehabilitated themselves after a conviction. The United States should not be a country where the effects of past mistakes have countless consequences – and no opportunity for redress. Passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011 will ensure that all Americans living in their communities will have the opportunity to participate in our electoral process. A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation, and allowing all persons who have completed their prison time to vote is the best way to ensure the greatest level of participation. We urge you to support the passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011. http://projectvote.org/images/publications/Felon%20Voting/DRA%20-%20Civil%20Rights%20Sign%20on%20Letter%20112th%20Congress%2012%2016%2011.pdf

Share

Dear Member of Congress: We, the undersigned organizations, a coalition of civil rights, social and criminal justice, and other legal and advocacy organizations, are writing to urge your support and co-sponsorship of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, a bill that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison and living in the community. The current patchwork of laws that disfranchise people with criminal records has created an inconsistent and unfair federal electoral process, perpetuating entrenched racial discrimination. As organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and justice as well as equal rights for all Americans, we strongly support passage of this legislation. Currently, 5.3 million American citizens are denied the right to vote because they have a criminal conviction in their past. Four million of these people are out of prison, living in the community, paying taxes and raising families; yet they remain disfranchised for years, often decades, and sometimes for life. The United States is one of the few western democratic nations that excludes such large numbers of people from the democratic process. Congressional action is needed to restore voting rights in federal elections to the millions of Americans who have been released from incarceration, but continue to be denied their ability to fully participate in civic life. Fortunately, Senator Ben Cardin and Representative John Conyers are lead sponsors of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011, which is intended to address these injustices. Criminal disfranchisement laws are rooted in the Jim Crow era. They were enacted alongside poll taxes and literacy tests and were intended to keep African Americans from voting. By 1900, 38 states denied voting rights to people with criminal convictions, most of which disfranchised people until they received a pardon. The intended effects of these laws continue to this day. Nationwide, 13% of African-American men have lost the right to vote. If current incarceration rates continue, three in ten of the next generation of African American men will lose the right to vote at some point in their lifetimes. This racial disparity also impacts the families of those who are disfranchised and the communities in which they reside by diminishing their collective political voice. In this country, voting is a national symbol of political equality and full citizenship. When a citizen is denied this right and responsibility, his or her standing as a full and equal member of our society is called into question. The responsibilities of citizenship – working, paying taxes and contributing to one’s community – are duties conferred upon those reentering society. To further punish individuals who are back in the community by denying them a right of citizenship counters the expectation that citizens have rehabilitated themselves after a conviction. The United States should not be a country where the effects of past mistakes have countless consequences – and no opportunity for redress. Passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011 will ensure that all Americans living in their communities will have the opportunity to participate in our electoral process. A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation, and allowing all persons who have completed their prison time to vote is the best way to ensure the greatest level of participation. We urge you to support the passage of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011. http://projectvote.org/images/publications/Felon%20Voting/DRA%20-%20Civil%20Rights%20Sign%20on%20Letter%20112th%20Congress%2012%2016%2011.pdf

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I support The Democracy Restoration Act because everyone deserves a vote

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