Summary: The Restoration of Voting Rights Act allows persons who were disfranchised because of felony convictions to regain their right to vote after being discharged from a correctional institution.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Restoration of Voting Rights Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:
1. [State] currently denies the right to vote to people convicted of a felony, not only while they are in prison, but also while they are living in the community under the supervision of parole or probation officers [or insert different language applicable to the state].
2. The current disfranchisement law has a disproportionate impact on minorities, especially African American and Latino men.
3. Voting is both a fundamental right and a civic duty. Restoring the right to vote strengthens our democracy by increasing voter participation and helps people who have completed their incarceration to reintegrate into society. Voting is an essential part of reassuming the duties of full citizenship.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to strengthen democratic institutions by increasing participation in the voting process, to help people who have completed their incarceration to become productive members of society, and to streamline procedures for restoring their right to vote.
SECTION 3. RESTORATION OF VOTING RIGHTS
In Chapter XXX, Sections XXX are deleted and the following are inserted in lieu thereof:
(A) A person shall forfeit the right to vote in a federal, state or municipal election upon conviction of a felony and confinement to a federal or state correctional institution in the United States.
(B) A person who has been convicted of a felony and confined to a federal or state correctional institution in the United States shall be restored the right to vote in a federal, state or municipal election when that person has been discharged from confinement. [NOTE: A less inclusive standard would be, “…has been discharged from confinement, and parole has been completed.]
(C) When a person is restored the right to vote, the [Department of Corrections] shall provide that person with a voter registration form, assistance in filling out the form, and a document certifying the person is eligible to vote. The [Department of Corrections] shall deliver completed voter registration forms to the [appropriate registration agency].
(D) The [Department of Corrections] shall, on or before 15th day of each month, transmit to the [Secretary of the State] a list of persons convicted of a felony who, during the preceding period, have become ineligible to vote; and a list of persons convicted of a felony who, during the preceding period, have become eligible to vote. The list shall contain each person’s name, date of birth, date of entry of judgment of conviction, sentence, and last four digits of social security number, or driver’s license number, if available.
SECTION 4. NOTIFICATION IN COURT
Before accepting a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a felony, and before imposing a felony sentence after trial, the court shall notify the defendant that conviction will result in loss of the right to vote as long as the person is confined and that voting rights are restored upon discharge [or until the person completes the sentence].
SECTION 5. RECORD KEEPING
(A) The [Secretary of State] shall ensure that the statewide voter registration database is purged of the names of persons who are ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction and shall likewise ensure that the names of persons who are eligible and registered to vote following restoration of voting rights are added to the statewide voter registration database in the same manner as all other names are added to that database.
(B) The [Secretary of State] shall ensure that persons whose voting rights have been restored face no continued barriers to registration or voting.
(C) The [Secretary of State] shall develop and implement a program to educate attorneys, judges, election officials, corrections officials including parole and probation officers, and members of the public about the requirements of this section, ensuring that:
1. Judges are informed of their obligation to notify criminal defendants of the potential loss and restoration of their voting rights.
2. The [Department of Corrections] is prepared to assist people with registration to vote, including forwarding their completed voter registration forms to the [appropriate registration agencies].
3. The language on voter registration forms makes clear that people who have been disqualified from voting because of felony convictions regain the right to vote when they are discharged from incarceration [or complete their sentences].
4. The [Department of Corrections] is prepared to transmit lists of persons eligible and not eligible to vote to the [Secretary of State].
5. Probation and parole officers are informed of the change in the law and are prepared to notify probationers and parolees that [or when] their right to vote is restored.
6. Accurate and complete information about the voting rights of people who have been charged with or convicted of crimes, whether disfranchising or not, is made available through a single publication to government officials and the public.
7. Pre-trial detainees who are eligible to register and vote are given the opportunity and assistance to do so, including assistance in securing and casting absentee ballots.
SECTION 6. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Act shall take effect on July 1, 20XX. Voting rights shall be restored to all residents who have completed their confinement [or sentence], whether the completion occurred before or after July 1, 20XX.