At Politico, Erika Wood calls the restoration of voting rights to ex-felons an issue that “resonate[s] in terms of this country’s founding principles and that form[s] a shared foundation for those who are looking for real solutions to pervasive social problems”:
Last week the Poverty Forum, a new coalition of Christian leaders and policy experts from both conservative and liberal camps, convened in Washington. And in a rare instance of true bipartisanship, the group voiced support for legislation—including the Democracy Restoration Act—specifically tailored to meet the needs of the most marginalized Americans.
Soon to be introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the Democracy Restoration Act would restore voting rights to people with felony convictions who are out of prison and living in the community. The measure is urgently needed, as felony disenfranchisement laws expose one of the greatest hypocrisies of our country.[…]
There is no greater scourge on our country’s moral standing than our history of slavery and its progeny of Jim Crow, mass imprisonment and disenfranchisement. And make no mistake, America’s felony disenfranchisement laws trace their roots straight back to Jim Crow. They were enacted alongside the notorious poll taxes, grandfather clauses and literacy tests. Targeted criminalization and felony disenfranchisement combined to create the legal loss of voting rights, usually for life, effectively suppressing the African-American vote for decades. The intended effects continue to this day. Nationwide, 13 percent of African-American men have lost the right to vote. If current incarceration rates continue, three in 10 of the next generation of black men will lose the right to vote at some point in their lives.
Read the full piece here.