The NAACP commends Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder for speaking out against laws prohibiting people with felony convictions from voting even after they have served the terms of their sentences. The NAACP has been actively engaged in campaigns in Florida, Iowa, Virginia, Delaware and other states to bring the practice to an end.
“By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes,” Holder said at a Washington, D.C. symposium on sentencing laws.
Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky are the only states that continue to disenfranchise persons convicted of felonies even after they have completed all of the terms of their sentences. There are an estimated 1.5 million disenfranchised citizens in Florida alone.
“This statement does much to make combatting felony disenfranchisement a national fight and not just a state one,” said Jotaka Eaddy, NAACP Senior Director for Voting Rights. “The NAACP and several other groups have been fighting on the ground to rid our country of a practice that has its roots in black codes designed to eliminate Black participation at the ballot box.”
Through executive order, Virginia became the most recent state to grant automatic restoration of rights to people with non-violent felony convictions who had completed the terms of their sentence. Months before, Delaware amended its state Constitution to allow people with non-violent felony convictions who have completed the terms of their sentence to vote after years of coalition work.
“While all of our local efforts have covered a lot of ground during the last decade in states like Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia we have much more work to do as a nation,” said Eaddy.
In October 2012, the NAACP launched a national felony disenfranchisement campaign to advocate for the restoration of voting rights for millions of citizens formerly convicted of felonies. The campaign featured billboards of formerly incarcerated citizens from across the country, including celebrity activists Judge Greg Mathis and Charles S. Dutton.
Holder’s announcement follows three NAACP delegation visits to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of the visits, the delegation has held panel discussions on felony disenfranchisement and the attack on voting rights in states across the nation.
An NAACP delegation will be deployed this March to address the same topic at the U.S Government’s UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights review.