Group Fights Felony Disenfranchisement in Alabama

(CN) – Nearly 250,000 Alabama residents are being denied their right to vote due to the state’s felony disenfranchisement laws, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center claims in a new video.

According to the video “Uncounted: America’s Silenced Citizens,” as many as six million Americans nationwide are currently being prevented from voting due to prior felony convictions.

“Mostly they live in 12 states that can take away your voting rights forever,” the video states. “One of the most aggressive is Alabama. Almost 250,000 people have been caught in the net.”

In 2016, the center filed a class-action seeking to have Alabama’s felony disenfranchisement laws declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it is racially discriminatory.

The complaint claims the law is “inextricably tied to Alabama’s long history of denying black citizens voting rights and equal access to the polls, using the criminal justice system to achieve those goals.”

One of the lead plaintiffs in that pending case, Tim Lanier, appears in the video and says he is  frustrated at not being able to vote after serving 18 years in prison.

“Not being able to vote or participate in a democratic society, emotionally it makes me feel like a ghost, like I don’t exist,” Lanier says.

“Regardless of anything that I’ve done right in my life, that one day that this happened has ruined the rest of my life as far as being a natural citizen of the United States. Because you’re not a citizen if you can’t vote,” he adds.

Another person seen in the video, Constance Todd, says she had her right to vote revoked for a crime committed over 20 years ago.

“It was devastating to find out that someone could just come and take my right to vote,” Todd says.

She goes on to say that she’s paid for what she did all those year ago and asks, What gives you the right to take my right to vote?”

The center said in a statement that Alabama is “one of 12 states that restrict voting rights even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole.”

In May, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that specifically defines the offenses that constitute “moral turpitude,” the type of felony that results in a revocation of voting rights.

The center said the new law represents “a step in the right direction but does not address the underlying discrimination of Alabama’s system.”

“The list doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Campaign Legal Center attorney Danielle Lang says in the video. “For example, you could have a single sex crime conviction and lose your right to vote permanently. But you could be convicted of embezzlement or fraud and a number of other white collar crimes and you don’t lose your right to vote.”

The center goes on to say the state “has not made a significant effort to correct many years of registrars erroneously denying the right to vote to people who were convicted of crimes that are not considered disqualifying under the new law.”

The Campaign Legal Center is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. According to its website, its mission is to “protect and strengthen the U.S. democratic process across all levels of government.”

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