Ahead of what seems like a contentious 2012 voting season, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would give back some rights to disenfranchised citizens.
The Democracy Restoration Act, introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), is aimed at former felons who have completed their sentences and have moved back into regular society. It was initially introduced in the House by Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) of the Congressional Black Caucus. Cardin caught on – especially since he represents a state where over a quarter of the population is Black and he managed to out hustle two African American candidates (first Kweisi Mfume in the Democratic primary and then Michael Steele, a Republican, in the general) for his current Senate seat in 2006. Cardin has much to make up for with Maryland’s powerful Black politicos.
And he thinks he can do it through a razor thin Democratic majority in the Senate that’s as gridlocked as a Northern Virginia rush hour. Good luck with that.
In many states, felons are not welcomed home with the same privileges they left with. Many of them are unable to vote in elections because of their criminal records.
According to Think Progress, felons in Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia permanently lose their voting rights after receiving any felony. In Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming, they lose those rights depending on which felony they committed.
Whatever the case is, this law could positively impact a section of the community that is often overlooked when it comes to voting rights. It will also have effects on the Black community, since a large percentage of felons fall into this ethnic group.
This bill comes at an important time of continued disenfranchisement of the larger population before the presidential election. Certain forces are hell-bent on curbing the amount of people who may vote in the election and not support a popular conservative candidate or their causes.
If you look around, you may see increased pressure on Latinos, African Americans, and student populations – in particular – because of their changing addresses, lack of strong participation, and/or lack of knowledge about voting rights overall.