For Immediate Release: June 4, 2019
Councilmember Robert White Introduced Landmark Bill to Restore Voting Rights to Incarcerated Residents with Felony Convictions
Today, At-Large Councilmember Robert White introduced the
Restore the Vote Amendment Act of 2019
to re-establish voting rights for DC residents incarcerated with felony convictions. In 1955, before the District of Columbia had home rule, the federal government disenfranchised incarcerated residents. Councilmember White said, “When this bill passes, DC will be the first jurisdiction in the country to restore the vote to incarcerated residents with felony convictions.”
At a press conference announcing the bill, White said, “I remind people that there is no provision in the Constitution removing the right to vote for people who have committed felonies. And those who have been convicted do not lose their Constitutional protections. They do not lose their civil rights. They do not lose their citizenship. Why, then, would they lose their most fundamental democratic right?”
White mentioned that most people incarcerated in the District and across the country are people of color and economically disadvantaged. He said, “I would argue that this disparity reflects deeply inequitable laws, and the people bearing the brunt of failed laws have no vote with which to hold officials accountable.”
Nationally, 48 states and the District of Columbia have laws stripping incarcerated residents of their right to vote, many of which were passed during the Jim Crow era. Vermont and Maine never passed laws disenfranchising incarcerated residents.
White said it is crucial to get this bill passed so that incarcerated residents can have their voices heard and to reform an abusive and discriminatory system. He said he is working with the Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, Charles Allen, to get a hearing scheduled quickly. Every member of the Council is co-introducing this bill, and it has the support of Attorney General Karl Racine.