NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana's lawmakers stood up for democracy when they passed, and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed, a new law requiring the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to notify people leaving its supervision about how to regain their voting rights. The law, Act No. 604, also requires the Department to provide these individuals with voter registration applications.
"By requiring notice of voting rights reinstatement to those completing their felony sentences, the Louisiana legislature and Gov. Jindal have taken an important step towards ensuring that all of Louisiana's eligible voters can exercise their fundamental right to vote," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, which lobbied in favor of the bill.
"The ACLU of Louisiana will be working with Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) to help ensure that the Department of Public Safety and Corrections implements the bill quickly and effectively," said Norris Henderson, VOTE's founder and director.
Louisiana is one of twenty states where people with felony convictions are stripped of the right to vote until they have completed their sentences, including any term of parole or probation.
In Louisiana, close to 100,000 men and women are ineligible to vote as a result of the state's law. Thousands more are kept from the polls because they wrongly believe that they cannot regain their right to vote.
Research has shown that people with criminal records who vote are half as likely to be re-arrested as their non-voting counterparts, and people who vote are also more likely to give to charity, volunteer, attend school board meetings, serve on juries, be interested in politics, and cooperate with fellow citizens in community affairs.
"So in addition to ensuring compliance with Louisiana law, the new bill serves the interest of public safety, thereby benefitting all Louisiana residents," Esman said.
Numerous criminal justice, legal and religious associations support voting rights for people who have completed their sentences, including the American Correctional Association, the American Probation and Parole Association, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the American Bar Association.
"The enactment of this legislation shows that the right to vote transcends partisan politics," Esman said. "This bill is about the strength of our democracy."
Additional information about the ACLU's effort to end felony disfranchisement can be found online at: www.aclu/rightovote