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Right to Vote - Message from LWV-WA President

S. Bivins | Published on 5/7/2023

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Susan Bivins, LWV-WA President's Message – May 4, 2023

 

Whether it's called "Right to Vote" or "Voting Restoration", it is the same thing.  May 1, 2023, the Louisiana League of Women Voters joined in a lawsuit to stop the state from disenfranchising those with felony convictions calling the new actions unconstitutional and illegal under federal voting rights law. Louisiana now requires that felons obtain an additional document from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) to be re-established on the rolls. Those who are convicted, but registering to vote for the first time, do not have this restriction, creating two classes of "felony" voters. 

 

In April 2023, the  Florida League of Women Voters joined in a lawsuit against the state for its changes to the voter registration rules even following a constitutional amendment to allow ex-felons to vote. The lawsuit challenges the lack of clarity in the new language that makes it almost impossible to determine who can ask for restored rights.

 

In June, the Virginia League will consider making voting restoration an issue to be taken up as a cause. Virginia was working its way to restoring voting rights with the first passage of a constitutional amendment (SJ272, Senator Locke, 2021). Under the amendment, once released from incarceration, a person's right to vote was automatically reinstated without any further action. The amendment did not pass the second time in the current General Assembly. And so, it continues that anyone convicted must petition the Governor for reinstatement, which is granted on a case-by-case basis. 

 

In Maryland, felons, once released, can vote, unless convicted of buying and selling votes. In North Carolina, once incarceration is completed, the citizen simply has to re-register to vote. In West Virginia, voting rights are automatically restored once the full sentence is complete. 

Virginia has been the outlier for a while, by not having automatic restoration. This may be a contentious issue for the next few years, but it only goes to emphasize that those who can vote must vote this November.



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