More than 5.3 million American citizens are denied the vote in our country because of a criminal conviction in their past. Nearly four million are people who have been released from prison but continue to be disenfranchised for years, often for decades, and sometimes for life.
As Senator Feingold and Secretary Kemp note, there has been significant momentum in the states to end these draconian disenfranchisement laws. In the last decade, 16 states have eased voting restrictions on people with conviction histories. In 2007 alone, Florida, Maryland, and Rhode Island all took steps to restore voting rights. But disenfranchisement is a national problem. Thirty-five states continue to deny the vote to people who have been released from prison and rejoined society.
The right to vote forms the core of American democracy. Once a privilege reserved for a few white men, Americans have fought hard to make it a right guaranteed for all. The Democracy Restoration Act would make this ideal into a reality. It is a proposal that we can all come together to support, not as Democrats or Republicans, or liberals or conservatives, but as Americans who believe in our democracy.