July 09, 2009
Democracy Restoration Act Introduced
Taylor Aims to Restore Voting Rights for the Disenfranchised
(MADISON) A democracy functions best when voting rights are available to a broad base of citizens. Today, Sen. Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee) introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which aims to restore voting rights to men and women who are on probation or parole. This legislation mirrors federal legislation introduced by United States Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin).
“In Wisconsin, the law prohibits those who are serving parole or probation from voting,” Taylor said. “Currently, the state has over 41,000 parolees and probationers. These 41,000 men and women are expected to reintegrate themselves into society by holding down jobs, raising families, and paying taxes, but they cannot vote. This is counterproductive to the rehabilitation process.”
Unfortunately, the current law impacts the African Americans disproportionately. In Wisconsin, one out of nine (over 11%) voting-age blacks are ineligible to do so. Wisconsin has the 13th-highest rate of African American disenfranchisement. Nationally, 13% of African American men cannot vote – this rate is seven times the national average.
Many other Wisconsin Senators and Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors for the bill, including Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona), Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee), Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids), and Rep. Joe Parisi (D-Madison), in addition to 12 other Assembly Representatives.
Over 70 coalitions are working on this issue in Wisconsin and nationwide. The American Corrections Association, American Probation and Parole Association, National Latino Congreso, and numerous other groups have recently passed resolutions supporting post-incarceration restoration of voting rights for people with felony convictions.