STATEMENT: Attendees at National Gathering of Secretaries of State Urged to Streamline Voting Registration Process for People with Felony Convictions

Release Date: 
July 13, 2005

New York, NY — As the National Association of Secretaries of State convenes today in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Right to Vote Campaign applauds Secretaries Pedro A. Cortes of Pennsylvania, Rebecca Vigil-Giron of New Mexico, and Cathy Cox of Georgia in their efforts to streamline the process for restoring voting rights to thousands of people with felony convictions by making registration information more easily accessible. Felony disfranchisement has been criticized across the United States as a violation of basic rights and for its discriminatory impact on minority communities, which are disproportionately represented in the U.S. prison population.

Secretaries of State are often the chief election administrators in their states and in a position to streamline voting procedures, such as registration and notification, for all citizens. One of their most important roles is to eliminate confusion about voter eligibility, so that all state residents are properly notified of their ability to cast a ballot on Election Day. People with felony convictions are often left uninformed of their eligibility status, and not provided adequate registration information.

Secretaries Cox (GA) and Cortes (PA) have both led the way in helping people with felony convictions understand their voting rights through the use of targeted informational materials and the internet. In Georgia, Secretary Cox placed posters in all parole and probation offices that clarify the state's policy on registering former felons to vote. Secretary Cortes ensured that the Pennsylvania Department of the Commonwealth's website had clear information for former felons who want to register to vote. Secretary Vigil-Giron is assisting in the implementation of New Mexico's new notification law, which requires court clerks and the Department of Corrections to notify the Secretary of State's office when a convicted felon has completed their sentence.

"Secretaries Cox, Cortes, and Vigil-Giron have set standards for other secretaries in ensuring democracy for all of their state's citizens," said Monifa Bandele, Field Director at Right to Vote, a campaign to end felony disfranchisement. "All secretaries of state should examine their felony disfranchisement laws, and streamline processes that hinder any citizen from voting."

"Unfortunately, rhetoric and political maneuvering have made this an increasingly partisan issue--one that fewer Republican Secretaries of State are willing to support," said Ludovic Blain III, Associate Director of the Democracy Program at Demos, a pro-democracy organization and Right to Vote Campaign founding member. "Their positions are in stark contrast to many Republican Governors who have championed the restoration of voting rights to people with felony convictions, including Robert Riley of Alabama and former Governor George W. Bush of Texas.

"It's time that all Secretaries of State take part in this national effort to ensure that people with felony convictions have a voice in their democracy."

Visit www.righttovote.org for more information.


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