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Press release/statement

STATEMENT: Attendees at National Gathering of State Governors Urged to Restore Voting Rights to People with Felony Convictions

New York, NY — As the National Governor's Association convenes today in Des Moines, Iowa, the Right to Vote Campaign applauds Governors Vilsack, Warner, Guinn, Riley, and others who took action to restore voting rights for thousands of people with felony convictions. Felon disfranchisement has been criticized across the United States as a violation of basic rights and its discriminatory impact on minority communities, who are disproportionately represented in the U.S. prison population.

"It's appropriate that Gov. Vilsack host this conference because he has shown the way for his colleagues to restore the civil rights of their state's citizens," said Monifa Bandele, Field Director at Right to Vote, a campaign to end felony disfranchisement. "Governors from states that extend the vote to people who have completed their sentences should enfranchise probationers and parolees, too."

"Governors Vilsack, Warner, Guinn and others have set an example for other governors in ensuring democracy for all of their state's citizens," said Ludovic Blain III, Associate Director of the Democracy Program at Demos, a pro-democracy organization and Right to Vote Campaign founding member, "All Governors should examine their felon disfranchisement laws, and champion policy that ensures that each citizen has a vote."

Governor Vilsack issued an executive order that took effect on July 4th, which enabled nearly 50,000 previously ineligible Iowa citizens to vote. African Americans make up only 2% of Iowa's population, yet are nearly 25% of the state's disfranchised. More than 80,000 Iowa citizens have lost their right to vote as a result of the policy.

Governor Vilsack (D) joined a long list of Governors who have recently made strides in restoring the voting rights of people with felony convictions. New Mexico Governor William Richardson (D) signed legislation in his state by requiring the Department of Corrections to notify the Secretary of State's office when felons complete their sentences in 2001. In Kentucky, Governor Ernest Fletcher (R) signed legislation requiring the Department of Corrections to inform eligible felons of their voting rights in 2001. In 2002, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) signed legislation repealing the lifetime ban on ex-felons voting. In 2003, Alabama Governor Robert Riley (R) signed a bill allowing most felons to apply for a certificate of eligibility to register to vote. In Virginia, a state which only grants voting rights to former felons through a pardon process, Governor Mark Warner (D) streamlined his state's pardon review process in 2004, and has restored the voting rights of more people with felony convictions than his 3 predecessors combined. In 2005, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) signed legislation repealing the lifetime ban on all felons in his state.

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