House Leaders Weigh Restoring Voting Rights for Millions

March 16, 2010

For Immediate Release

March 16, 2010

Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289

Tuesday, March 16, 2:00 p.m., Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2141.

New York – The Brennan Center for Justice today urges House Judiciary leaders to pass the Democracy Restoration Act.

The bill would restore the right to vote to nearly 4 million American citizens with a criminal conviction, who are now living and working in the community. 

Based on a 2008 Brennan Center policy proposal, the bill has garnered wide support from a diverse coalition including members of law enforcement, the faith community and civil rights organizations.

“Today Congress is listening to 4 million silenced Americans,” said Erika Wood, Brennan Center attorney and author of the Restoring the Right to Vote

“Excluding millions of citizens from the franchise only weakens our democracy.  Congress should pass the Democracy Restoration Act because a strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation, across all sectors of society,” said Wood.

Among those testifying at today’s hearing:

  1. Burt Neuborne, Legal Director of the Brennan Center and the Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties at NYU School of Law;
  2. Carl Wicklund, Executive Director of the American Probation and Parole Association and member of the Brennan Center Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice Advisory Council;
  3. Hilary O. Shelton Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau;
  4. Ion Sancho, Supervisor for Elections in Leon County, Florida; and
  5. Andres Idarraga, Yale law student
    Now at Yale Law School, Andres Idarraga voted for the first time in 2008 after having his voting rights restored by a 2006 change to Rhode Island’s felony disenfranchisement law.

Currently, nearly 4 million citizens are out of prison and living in the community but still denied the right to vote. Thirty-five states continue to deny the right to vote to Americans who are out of prison.  Many of these laws trace directly back to the Jim Crow era, and their intended effects continue today: 13 percent of African-American men have lost their right to vote, a rate that is seven times the national average.

The hearing will be: Tuesday, March 16, 2:00 p.m., Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2141.

For more information, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or at jeanine.plant-chirlin@nyu.edu or Susan Lehman at 212-998-6318 or at susan.lehman@nyu.com.