A bill has been introduced called the Democracy Restoration Act. The purpose of this law is to restore the voting rights to people who have a Federal Conviction. Currently a Federal Conviction strips a man or woman or their right to vote in Federal Elections. There are 5.3 million people who cannot vote because of a conviction. This includes minor and nonviolent offenses. I was trained in the law with the understand that our Justice System served to punish and rehabilitate. Some people argue that rehabilitation has long been forgotten, but in Federal Correctional Facilities they have many helpful programs. But what is the rationale for stopping a person from voting after he has served his sentence and paid his or her debt to society? The person is still alive and a citizen of the United States. The person still works, pays taxes, vacations, and has a family in America. Are we just not willing to forgive people? Our Nation has been guided by Christian principles yet we won’t let go the need to kick a person while they are down and then kick them some more for good measure.
Many States take away voting rights when a citizen has been convicted. Some allow those rights to be restored automatically when the person has served all punishment, including probation. Others required the person to file a Petition and jump “hoops” before they can get their voting rights restored. In Mississippi the process is not easy and by no means guaranteed. This archaic idea that we have to deny someone the right to vote because they may have done one thing wrong as a teenager or at another time in their life needs to be ended and put to rest. The negative effects of a felony conviction are the results of our history from England. I wrote a Blog earlier explaining how many of our laws and ideas are the result of our past that were brought over by the colonists. This idea that a “convict of felony” must bear life long punishment is one of those old and unnecessary ideas. One other thing needed is an expungement or expunction statute that would allow a person to clear their record if they are convicted of a nonviolent, first offense.
Hopefully these changes will come to America. There are a lot of changes we need to help our citizens put their lives back together. I like to remind people that “good people can make bad choices and mistakes. That does not make them a bad person forever.”
Merrida Coxwell has over 29 years of experience helping people charged with criminal offenses. He has served as attorney for hundreds of people helping them through troubling and difficult times in their life. For a free consultation call (601) 265-7766.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.