Democracy Restoration Act
The Democracy Restoration Act (DRA) is federal legislation that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to the 3.3 million disenfranchised Americans who have been released from prison and are living in the community, but are still denied the right to vote.
The DRA is included in Subtitle E of H.R.1, the omnibus democracy reform bill which passed the House on March 8, 2019. The DRA was introduced as a standalone bill, most recently in the 114th Congress by Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
For a list of members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors of H.R.1., click here.
- DRA Factsheet
- Legal analysis of the constitutionality of the DRA
- Related Press
- Bill Status/History
- Groups and Individuals who support the DRA
- Supplemental Written Testimony
Currently, 34 states continue to disenfranchise people after release from prison. For a state-by-state guide on felony disenfranchisement laws around the country, view our map here. Restoring the Right to Vote, a comprehensive policy proposal, is here. To view all publications related to voting after criminal convictions, click here.
- Read a post at the American Constitution Society Blog by Nicole Austin-Hillery on the importance of the DRA.
- Read a press release by Senator Cardin's office on the bill's introduction.
- For news coverage on restoring the right to vote, click here.
- For all press, research and news on felony disenfranchisement, click here.
01/04/19 - The Democracy Restoration Act was included in Subtitle E of H.R.1, the first bill introduced in the 116th Congress.
03/05/19 - The Brennan Center submitted Supplemental Written Testimony in support of the Democracy Restoration Act.
03/09/19 - The House of Representatives voted 234-193 in favor of H.R. 1, or the For the People Act of 2019
- 04/10/14 - The Democracy Restoration Act was introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) as S.2235 and H.R.4459.
- Senate Briefing on the Democracy Restoration Act - Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 10:00am
- Senator Cardin, the Senate sponsor of the Democracy Restoration Act, gave opening remarks at a briefing on the bill at the Capitol Visitor Center. Nicole Austin-Hillery, the director of the Brennan Center's Washington, DC office, moderated a panel that included:
- Desmond Meade, President, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
- Deborah J. Vagins, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
- Dave Louden, Assistant to the President, Justice Fellowship (Prison Fellowship Ministries)
- Carl Wicklund, Executive Director, American Probation & Parole Association
- Pictures from the event can be found here.
December - Senator Cardin (D-Maryland) introduced the bill in the Senate for the 112th Congress. The DRA unfortunatly did not pass during the 111th Congress, so the bill had to be re-introduced. Representative Conyers (D-Michigan) is the sponsor of the House version of the bill, which was introduced earlier in the year. The bill is in a preliminary stage of the process, and the House and Senate Judiciary committees will have to review the bill before it gets a full floor vote. You can track its status here.
3/16/10 - Judiciary Committee, Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee holds an hearing on the Democracy Restoration Act. Among those testifying include, Burt Neuborne, Legal Director of the Brennan Center; Carl Wicklund, Executive Director of the American Probation and Parole Association and member of the Brennan Center Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice Advisory Council; Hilary O. Shelton Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau; Ion Sancho, Supervisor for Elections in Leon County, Florida; Andres Idarraga, a Yale law student who voted for the first time in 2008 after having his voting rights restored by a 2006 change to Rhode Island’s felony disenfranchisement law. To view the Brennan Center's press release on the 3/16/10 Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee hearing, click here.
- 12/11/09 - Congressional Briefing was held on the Democracy Restoration Act.
- 12/10/09 - Civil rights, law enforcement, criminal justice and faith organizations and leaders submitted letters to members of Congress in support of the DRA.
- 07/24/09 - DRA introduced by Sen. Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. Conyers (D-MI) H.R 3335 and S. 1516 on July 24th, 2009.
- 07/03/09 - Representatives John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler wrote a letter to colleagues to garner support for the DRA.
- 09/26/08 - The DRA was first introduced in the 110th Congress on as S.3640 and H.R.7136. Senator Feingold's statements can be found here.
- Senator Feingold introduced the bill with the support of Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Cardin.
- Representative Conyers introduced the bill in the House. Other sponsors included Mr. Nadler or New York, Mr. Grayson, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. Stark, Ms. Waters, Mr. Payne, Mr. Norton, Mr. Davis of Illinois, Mr. Frank of Massachusetts, Mr. Hinchey, Mr. Jackson of Illinois, Mr. Moran of Virginia, Mr. Hastings of Florida, Mr. Johnson of Georgia, Mr. Scott of Virginia, and Mr. Honda.
The DRA has garnered support from a growing and diverse group of organizations. The Brennan Center has helped to collect signatories to three letters of support for the bill: law enforcement and criminal justice leaders, faith groups, and civil rights organizations.
Groups and individuals who support the DRA include:
A Better Way Foundation
Alliance for Justice
The Aleph Institute
American Bar Association
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
American Humanist Association
American Probation and Parole Association
Americans for Safe Access
American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate
Asian American Justice Center
Theodis Beck, President, Association of State Correctional Administrators
Secretary, North Carolina Department of Corrections
The Billy Graham Center, Institute for Prison Ministries
Black Youth Vote!
Brennan Center for Justice
Jane Browning, Executive Director, International Community Corrections Association
Campaign for America's Future
Campaign for Youth Justice
Catholic Charities USA
Center for the Study of the American Electorate
Church of Scientology
Citizens Against Recidivism
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Crossroad Bible Institute
Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action
Col. Douglas DeLeaver, Former National President, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
Former Chief of Police, Maryland Transit Administration Police Force
Col. Dean Esserman, Chief of Police, Providence Police Department
Drug Policy Alliance
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Faces & Voices of Recovery
Fair Elections Legal Network
The Fortune Society
Friends Committee on National Legislation
James Gondles, Jr., Executive Director, American Correctional Association
Ron Hampton, Executive Director, National Black Police Association
Lisa Holley, President, Association of Paroling Authorities International; Chair, Rhode Island Parole Board
Charles J. Hynes, District Attorney, Kings County, New York
Holistic Opportunity for Personal Empowerment (HOPE)
Interfaith Drug Prevention Initiative
Doug Jones, Former U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Alabama
Justice Policy Institute
Justin Jones, Director, Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Peg Lautenschlager, Former Wisconsin Attorney General, Former U.S. Attorney, Western District of Wisconsin
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Leadership Conference for Civil Rights
Legal Action Center
Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office
Tom Miller, Iowa Attorney General
Jorge Montes, Chariman, Illinois Prisoner Review Board
National Alliance of Faith and Justice
National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice
National Black Law Students Association
National Coalition of Black Civic Participation
The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
National Lawyers Guild
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby NOVA Coalition
Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
The Partnership for Safety and Justice
Penal Reform International
People Advocating Recovery
People for the American Way
Pennsylvania Prison Society
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
Protestants for the Common Good
The Real Cost of Prisons Project
Rehabilitation Through The Arts
Restorative Justice Ministries Network of North America
Rhode Island Family Life Center
Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy
Safe Streets Arts Foundation
The Sentencing Project
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
John F. Timoney, President, Board of Directors, Police Executive Research Forum, Chief of Police, Miami Police Department
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
U.S. Dream Academy, Inc.
The Voter Enfranchisement Project of The Bronx Defenders
V.O.T.E. (Voice of the Ex-offender)
Ashbel T. Wall, Director, Rhode Island Department of Corrections
Carl Wicklund, Executive Director, American Probation and Parole Association
Hubert Williams, President, Police Foundation, Former Chief of Police, Newark Police Department