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August 13, 2020

ABA adopts resolution urging jurisdictions to repeal all felon disenfranchisement laws

I was pleased to see news of the American Bar Association passing a resolution calling for the repeal laws that disenfranchise persons based upon criminal conviction.  The full resolution is bold and broad and reads as follows:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to:

  a.  repeal laws that disenfranchise persons based upon criminal conviction;

  b.  restore voting rights to those currently and formerly incarcerated, including those on probation, parole, or any other community-based correctional program;

  c.  assure that no person convicted of crime is disenfranchised because of nonpayment of a fine, court costs, restitution or other financial obligations imposed as a result of a criminal conviction.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association amends the Criminal Justice Standards on Collateral Sanctions and Discretionary Disqualification of Convicted Persons (3d Edition, 2004) as follows:

  Standards 19-2.6 Prohibited collateral sanctions Jurisdictions should not impose the following collateral sanctions: (a) deprivation of the right to vote.

August 13, 2020 at 10:57 PM | Permalink


Amen! Felony disenfranchisement laws have a disproportionately racist effect on voting. Before Gov. Andy Beshear's Executive Order automatically restoring felon voting rights was signed within the last year, 25% of all blacks in Kentucky could not vote because of a past felony conviction, and 33% of black men could not vote. I thought we settled this issue with the Revolutionary War against the British! If you are a citizen and you pay taxes, you should be able to vote, period.

Posted by: James J. Gormley | Aug 14, 2020 9:10:19 AM

b. restore voting rights to those currently incarcerated, if that means those that are still in prison can vote - then I disagree. Too much influence when in prison.

Otherwise I agree completely with ABA resolution, it is only right!

Posted by: LC in Texas | Aug 14, 2020 6:42:57 PM

It would be interesting if incarcerated people could vote. Certainly public policy affects them about as dramatically as any other citizens. Our prison system in Alabama is a horror show (literally, new horrors of rape, sadistic assault, and murder of prisoners are reported on a regular basis) and despite a lot of public attention and legislative activity over the last 10-15 years, it has not changed.

What would happen if the incarcerated became a voting block, both statewide, but also locally? A lot of prisons are in relatively rural areas, which seek prisons because they are desperate to bring jobs to the community, even jobs as low paid, endangered prison guards. Very few of the prisoners are typically from the county where the prison is located. But if the prisoners actually voted in local elections, those communities would suddenly have an incentive to advocate for decent conditions in the prison. Or, if the prisoners voted in their home-district elections, those communities might be more pressed to address the problems that helped lead the prisoners down the wrong road in the first place (in addition, of course, to their own bad choices).

It would also have interesting effects inside the prison. In a former job I did a good deal of work inside prisons, and it was surprising how informed and relatively sophisticated some of the prisoners were about politics. They often lack education, but many are quite intelligent. (I often think that crime attracts the very smart and the very dumb.) They also have a lot of free time. It seems to me that giving them a reason to engage in civic responsibility and think about public policy and values would have to be helpful as an element of rehabilitation.

Posted by: bama lawyer | Aug 17, 2020 10:48:22 AM

How about an update?

Posted by: LC in Texas | Dec 9, 2020 11:10:39 PM

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