SECOND CHANCE ALLIANCE: Speak Out Against Felony Disenfranchisement to Preserve Our Voice

April 10, 2013

We are a diverse alliance of citizens concerned with the destructive impact of barriers to reentry on individuals with criminal records, their families, and communities across North Carolina.  Many of us have criminal records and confront these barriers directly. Others of us have witnessed family members and neighbors struggle against these barriers. Others come to the Alliance as service providers and advocates. From these diverse backgrounds, we have joined together and with one collective voice to say, “I’m for Second Chances!”

Over the last few years, our alliance has called on elected leaders at the state legislature and in communities across North Carolina to increase access to resources for individuals with criminal records, and lower barriers to reentry. We have gained much through our advocacy, including expanded opportunities for expungement of criminal records, increased local coordination of reentry supports, and several successful “Ban the Box” campaigns. Just last week, thanks to your calls and emails to legislators over the last few months, the General Assembly passed a bill prohibiting occupational licensing boards from automatically denying licenses based on criminal records and requiring them to consider several mitigating factors in determining the relevancy of a criminal record.

Essential to our recent success and future ambitions is the ability of each member of the Second Chance Alliance—especially those directly impacted by these barriers— to voice his or her concerns to our elected leaders and hold those leaders accountable at the ballot box.

A bill, introduced in the North Carolina Senate last week, would strip many individuals with felony convictions of this fundamental ability. Introduced by Senator Buck Newton, Senate Bill 721 would not only require photo identification to vote, but also exclude a person with a felony conviction from voting for at least 5 years after he or she has completed his or her criminal sentence.. Even then—5 years after having paid their debt to society—the person would be required to receive the unanimous consent of the local elections board in order to have his or her right to vote restored. 

This provision is a drastic departure from the current law which automatically restores the citizenship rights of individuals with felony convictions upon the completion of their sentences. Civil disabilities imposed on individuals with felony convictions already undermine the basic opportunities and resources essential to productive citizenship, including gainful employment, affordable housing, and family unification. While the right to vote may seem less urgent compared to the more immediate deprivations of poverty caused by these other barriers to reentry, it is no less important. Defeating this bill is about preserving our voice—it is about protecting the ability of Alliance members and others with felony convictions to engage in our state’s democratic discourse as full-fledged citizens with equal voice.

Below are the names of the bill’s sponsors. Please reach out to these individuals and respectfully voice your support for second chances and your opposition to this bill. 

Key Talking Points For Opposition to SB 721

  • I oppose SB 721 because of its felony disenfranchisement provision.  
  • The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy and I believe that when someone has paid their debt to society, he or she should have their citizenship rights restored.
  • Excluding citizens from our communities—especially at the ballot box—helps no one, and hurts everyone.
  • Felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact low-income and African-American communities.
  • Please reconsider your support of felony disenfranchisement.

For more information on the heavy toll of felony disenfranchisement, please click here.

Also, please join us for Second Chance Lobby Day on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, to speak face-to-face with legislators about felony disenfranchisement and other reentry issues.

Senator

Counties

Phone

Email

Room

Buck Newton

Johnston, Nash, Wilson

(919) 715-3030

Buck.Newton@ncleg.net

408

Chad Barefoot

Franklin, Wake

(919) 715-3036

Chad.Barefoot@ncleg.net

623

Stan Bingham

Davidson, Montgomery

(919) 733-5665

Stan.Bingham@ncleg.net

2117

Andrew Brock

Davie, Iredell, Rowan

(919) 715-0690

Andrew.Brock@ncleg.net

521

Bill Cook

Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans

(919) 715-8293

Bill.Cook@ncleg.net

525

Warren Daniel

Burke, Cleveland

(919) 715-7823

Warren.Daniel@ncleg.net

1127

Ralph Hise

Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey

(919) 733-3460

Ralph.Hise@ncleg.net

1026

Brent Jackson

Duplin, Johnston, Sampson

(919) 733-5705

Brent.Jackson@ncleg.net

523

Ron Rabin

Harnett, Johnston, Lee

(919) 733-5748

Ron.Rabin@ncleg.net

526

Shirley Randleman

Stokes, Surry, Wilkes

(919) 733-5743

Shirley.Randleman@ncleg.net

308

Dan Soucek

Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Watauga

(919) 733-5742

Dan.Soucek@ncleg.net

310

Tommy Tucker

Union

(919) 733-7659

Tommy.Tucker@ncleg.net

311

 

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