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Copyright (c) 2009 Ginny Maziarka. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 22, 2009

State Reps pushing bill to restore voting rights to felons

What? (Most of this bill is copied from the ACLU website.... no surprise.)

Rep. Tamara Grigsby, Rep. Marlin Schneider, Rep. Joe Parisi, Sen. Lena Taylor have called for the co-sponsorship of LRB 2499/5 and LRB 0696 the Democracy Restoration Act which restores voting rights to certain persons with a felony conviction and changes the information required on voter registration forms.

The Wisconsin Democracy Restoration Act is designed to enfranchise over 42,000 taxpaying Wisconsin citizens who have been deemed safe to return to society by our system of reintegration and live throughout the state of Wisconsin .

Like many of us, probationers and parolees live in their community, work, pay taxes, go to school and raise their families as they reintegrate into society, and yet, they may not be able to vote for 6 months, or longer under Wisconsin ’s current laws.

Restricting voting rights does not prevent crime, nor does it provide compensation to victims. In fact recent research finds a link between allowing ex-offenders to fully participate in society by voting and reoffense; people who voted after release from supervision were half as likely to be re-arrested as those who did not vote. The act of voting demonstrates an individual’s commitment to the institutions of American democracy and society and should be encouraged.

Since 1997, 18 states have made progressive changes to their ex-offender disfranchisement laws, in cluding our neighboring states of Illinois , Indiana , Iowa , Michigan , and Ohio . These states have found that the simple act of voting makes ex-offenders feel more connected to their communities and is an important step toward their rehabilitation.

More than 70 Wisconsin organizations have joined the Restore the Vote WI/NOW coalition in support of the restoration of voting rights for individuals upon release of incarceration including: Milwaukee County Labor Council/AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Lakeside Peacemakers of Manitowoc, the NAACP of Wisconsin, Madison Area Urban Ministries, Community Connections, League of Martin, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Project Return, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, and many other faith, labor and community organizations representing tens of thousands of voting Wisconsin citizens statewide.

If you would like to be a cosponsor of these bills, contact Cindy in Rep. Grigsby’s office at 6-0645 or Eric in Senator Taylor’s office at 6-5810 or respond to this e-mail by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7th. You will be included on both the Senate and Assembly bills unless you indicate otherwise.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, when a person is barred from voting as the result of a felony conviction (a “disqualifying offense”), the person’s right to vote may be restored through a pardon. Otherwise, it is restored upon completion of the sentence, including extended supervision or parole, or completion of the term of probation imposed on the person who committed the offense.

Under this bill, a person loses his or her right to vote based on a disqualifying offense only while he or she is incarcerated for that offense. A person released to extended supervision o r parole may resume voting. In addition, a person convicted of a disqualifying offense and on probation retains the right to vote while on probation unless he or she is confined as a condition of probation. But if a person who committed a disqualifying offense is returned to prison after the revocation of extended supervision or parole or is sent to prison or a jail or house of correction after the revocation of probation, the person loses the right to vote until he or she is released.

Currently, an applicant for voter registration must affirm 1) whether he or she has been convicted of a felony for which he or she has not been pardoned and, if so, whether the applicant is incarcerated or on parole, probation, or extended supervision; and 2) whether the applicant is disqualified on any other ground from voting.

This bill deletes the requirement that an applicant provide any information relating to a felony conviction but retains the requirement that an applicant affirm that he or she is not disqualified on any ground from voting.

This bill also requires the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Government Accountability Board, and the Director of State Courts to include in their ongoing training programs a discussion of the changes in law produced by this bill and to offer the training to judges, attorneys, election officials, employees of DOC, and the public. For further information see the state fiscal estimate, which will be printed as an appendix to this bill.


Concerned West Bend Citizen said...

I'm not sure what your mono-syllabic commentary "What?" is supposed to convey, but thanks for posting this from the ACLU website. It is a most compelling argument for re-enfranchising certain parolees who are United States citizens, live in their community, work, pay taxes, go to school and raise their families.

Alan De Smet said...

I'm with Concerned West Bend Citizen above, this is great news. There is no public safety issue with letting released felons vote, and it can help some of them build up the community involvement to want to be proper members of society as opposed to returning to a life of crime. If the concern is that the felon hasn't paid their debt to society, you should lobby to extend prison sentences, not engage in petty punishments.

Anonymous said...

Punishment is bad. Theres no need for anyone to fear serious permanant repricusions for anything because at this pace, in a few years nothing will warrant more than a slap on the wrist.

I love this country!

Marjorie said...

My husband, in his misguided youth, committed a felony. Everything in his life has turned around, but it's amazing how many people (especially those who pretend to be Christian) want him--and the rest of our family--to be stigmatized forever for a 20 year old mistake of his past.

Making life more difficult for people seeking to improve their lives does not stop crime.

I think the people so horrified by the idea of redemption should spend a little more time with your Bibles and a little less time trying to make those who committed long-ago crimes suffer.