While Maine and Vermont are the only two American states that allow all prison inmates to vote, many other states are increasing voting rights for felons.
The Los Angeles times reports that the drive to restore voting rights is backed strongly by justice-reform advocates, the African American community, and evangelical Christians.
Because one out of eight black men cannot vote due to prior convictions, voting rights can turn into a civil rights issue.
Pat Nolan, a leader of the Christian reform group Prison Fellowship, told the newspaper it was a matter of forgiveness: “Why, after someone has paid their debt, do we continue to punish them?”
More than five million people in the U.S. cannot vote due to felony convictions.
In the last ten years, voting rights have been restored for around 760,000 ex-offenders.
Some states ban felons from voting for life; other states restore voting rights as soon as a prisoner is released, and many allow them to vote once they finish parole or probation.
“More felons learning — to their surprise — that they can vote”
The Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2008