Pressley Proposes Bill to Guarantee Right to Vote for Incarcerated Citizens

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If you're a citizen and incarcerated, you are not allowed to vote. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley unveiled a bill on Wednesday that would end felony disenfranchisement and guarantee the right to vote for incarcerated citizens.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

Pressley (MA- D 7th and Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) announced the legislation that would allow an estimated 4.6 million citizens, disproportionately Black and brown citizens who are denied voting rights because of a criminal conviction, to be able to vote. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Too often, citizens behind the wall and those with a record are wrongfully stripped of their sacred right to vote and denied the opportunity to participate in our democracy," said Pressley.

Pressley accused Republicans and the Supreme Court of undermining voting rights and excluding Black and brown citizens from participating in elections. Their legislation calls for expanding access to the ballot box.

A Pressley press release pointed out that there are inconsistent systems across 48 states that treat different crimes as felonies and set different standards for disenfranchisement.

The bill would:

  • Guarantee the right to vote in federal elections for citizens who have criminal convictions;
  • Require state and federal entities to notify individuals who are convicted, incarcerated, on probation, or on parole of their right to vote in federal elections;
  • Outline the process for citizens in carceral settings to register to vote by mail, if registration is required by their state;
  • Outline the process for citizens in carceral settings to vote by mail, including protecting and prioritizing election mail, curing ballots with mistakes, and casting a provision ballot;
  • Ensure citizens in carceral settings have access to information about elections through mechanisms available to them such as  the internet, campaigns, and third party groups;
  • Provide guidance to state officials to not prosecute citizens in carceral settings who complete an election ballot that includes an election they are not eligible to vote in; and
  • Provide a private right of action to enforce this legislation.

A copy of the bill text can be found here, and a summary can be found here.