Thousands of Black ex-felons were among the massive African-American voter turnout in Alabama that swept Democrat Doug Jones into the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Al.com reported. Scores of those ex-offenders voted for the first time because Alabama enacted a law in May that restored their voting rights. Efforts are underway in other states to end similar laws that disproportionately impact African Americans. But expect strong Republican opposition.
“It feels good. I finally got to vote for the first time. It made me feel awesome,” said Kameron McGlown, 23, after he voted on Tuesday in Alabama, using his mugshot as an ID.
Only two states, Maine and Vermont, never ban ex-offenders from voting, even while they’re incarcerated, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 26 states and the District of Columbia voting rights are automatically restores upon release, in some cases after serving a parole period or paying outstanding fines. Ex-felons indefinitely lose their voting rights or must petition the governor (in a process that can take years) in a dozen states. Typically, Republicans oppose restoring voting rights to ex-offenders because they would most likely vote for Democrats.
No doubt, many of Virginia’s ex-felons helped Democrats win critical elections in November. Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in April that he had broken a record for restoring voting rights, individually granting 156,221 ex-felons their right to vote. A massive petition drive in Florida hopes to collect enough signatures to put voting rights restoration on the 2018 ballot. More than 1.6 million Floridians who completed their sentences are barred from voting, which represents the largest concentration of the approximately 6.1 million ex-felons across the country who have lost their right to vote, according to the Sentencing Project. Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit was filed in September in Mississippi, which argues that permanently banning certain ex-felons from voting is based in White supremacy. After seeing Tuesday’s results, Republicans will likely increase their efforts to defeat the movement.