Groups Push to Expand Ex-Felon Voting

Groups Push to Expand Ex-Felon Voting

Hoping to boost voter turnout in a historic presidential election year, civil rights groups and other advocacy organizations are trying to get as many ex-felons as possible to cast ballots in November.

The groups, ranging from grassroots get-out-the-vote organizations to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, are working to identify and register thousands of citizens with criminal records — many of them minorities — who may not know they are eligible to vote under often-complicated state voting laws.

Both in little-contested states such as Texas and in perennial presidential-election battlegrounds such as Ohio, activists are knocking on doors trying to find former prisoners and inform them of their voting rights, visiting state prisons and jails to speak with soon-to-be-released inmates and helping to register those who are interested and allowed to vote.

Looking beyond November, the American Civil Liberties Union is waging a broader campaign to persuade state legislatures to do away with so-called felony disenfranchisement laws, which keep an estimated 5.3 million Americans with felony convictions from the polls, including 2.1 million who no longer are in prison.

Only two states — Maine and Vermont — allow incarcerated felons to vote, according to a March analysis by The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that opposes voting restrictions on ex-felons. Voting laws in the rest of the states vary widely for those no longer behind bars.

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