Ken Glasgow at 334-791-2433 or Gabriel Sayegh at 646-335-2264
Alabama-based The Ordinary People’s Society and their national partner the Drug Policy Alliance began a historic voter registration drive this week in prisons across Alabama. The drive was prepared with the full support of the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC). However, after Alabama newspapers reported on the registration drive, the state GOP voiced their opposition to the effort and pressured the DOC to end it. Yesterday, the DOC reversed their position and has barred advocates from registering eligible voters in Alabama correctional facilities.
“Voter registration drives are an essential part of our democracy, and this action by the GOP and the Department of Corrections smacks of voter intimidation,” said Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, founder and executive director of The Ordinary People’s Society, the group leading the registration drive. “Our focus isn’t politics, it’s restoration. We’re just doing what the Bible says, visiting people in prison and ministering to them. The chairman of the Republican Party and the chairman of the Democratic Party can go into prisons with us and monitor the registration process to make sure it’s nonpartisan, if that’s a concern.”
In Alabama, nearly 250,000 people have been stripped their voting rights due to a felony conviction. But in a 2006 court ruling in Alabama, a judge found that only those convicted of felonies of “moral turpitude” lose their right to vote. The judge found that certain felonies–such as drug possession–do not constitute crimes of moral turpitude, and therefore individuals convicted of those crimes do not lose their right to vote, even during incarceration. Alabama’s Attorney General, Troy King, concurred with the ruling. This change could have an impact on nearly 70,000 Alabamians, including nearly 10,000 currently incarcerated in state prisons on drug charges alone.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Second Chance Act, which supports the process of people with felony convictions re-entering society by funding programs inside and outside prisons to increase civic participation upon their release. Bush, the country’s top Republican, also has expressed support for the restoration of voting rights to people with felony convictions.
“Alabama state law makes it clear that people incarcerated for simple drug possession never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated,” said Glasgow. “The GOP and the Alabama Department of Corrections cannot decide on their own which constituencies are going to have access to the vote, and which will be barred from it. We live in a democracy, after all.”