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Voting restoration bill stalls at end of Alabama legislative session

Published: May. 18, 2021 at 8:24 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A number of proposed bills stalled in Montgomery on Monday when the latest legislative session came to an end.

One of the bills that didn’t make it would have helped restore voting rights for some formerly incarcerated Alabamians. Faith in Action Alabama supported the bill from its origin, and group leaders report they will continue the fight to restore voting rights.

Faith in Action Voter Rights Restoration Campaign Community Organizer JaiGregory Clarke described voting rights for formerly incarcerated people as “taxation without representation.”

“People who leave prison are expected to leave, get a job in the community, pay taxes, and not vote,” Clarke said. “We feel there is something fundamentally wrong with that. If they are contributing to that community then they should have a voice.”

During the legislative session, the group urged lawmakers to help former prisoners who qualify to regain their right to vote without having to pay all the fees upfront. Clarke said as someone who was incarcerated he feels this is very important.

“For someone who owes a couple of hundred dollars in fines and fees, it may not be a big deal, but for many Alabamians, it may not be a big deal,” Clarke said. “But there are many Alabamians who owe thousands of dollars of fines and fees and we don’t believe that should be an obstacle to keep someone from voting. If they are out and working into their community and paying towards their debt meaning they owe their fines and fees but for a period of one year, they’ve made regular payment.”

The bill did not make it out of this session but Clarke says his group is not giving up. They plan to push for something similar this next session.

“Under present Alabama law, someone who owes fines and fees is not eligible to receive a certificate to vote,” Clarke said.

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