The Democracy Restoration Act

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					Legal Daily News Feature

The Democracy Restoration Act
By Joshua Nave

2010 appears poised to be a historic year in Congress. With health care reform behind it, the House is now taking up another
controversial matter near and dear to the hearts of liberals - felon disenfranchisement.

                              03/24/10                                   bars. The court relied on a change to section 2 of the VRA
                                                                         that in essence applies disparate impact theory to racial
                             Last week the House Judiciary               discrimination in voting, an argument echoed by proponents of
                             Committee heard testimony on                the Democracy Restoration Act.
                             HR 3335, also known as the
Democracy Restoration Act of 2009. This bill, sponsored                  According to the authors of the bill, some 5 million Americans
by Congressman John Conyers (D - MI) and introduced in                   are currently denied the right to vote due to a felony
the Senate as S 1516 by Senator Feingold (D - WI), would                 conviction. Of those, almost 4 million have been released
uniformly restore voting rights to felons who have completed             from prison. 2 million African-Americans, representing about
their term of incarceration. The Senate bill has been referred           8% of all African-Americans, have been disenfranchised,
to the Judiciary Committee but no hearings have yet taken                and Hispanics are also disproportionately likely to be
place. The key provision of the bill, found in section 3, reads          disenfranchised.
‘’The right of an individual who is a citizen of the United States
to vote in any election for Federal office shall not be denied           Opponents of the bill argue that it represents an
or abridged because that individual has been convicted of                unconstitutional infringement on the right of the states to
a criminal offense unless such individual is serving a felony            determine voter eligibility. Hans A. von Spakovsky, a counselor
sentence in a correctional institution or facility at the time of        to the Civil Rights Division under former President Bush,
the election.’’                                                          argues that the bill ‘’represents an unconstitutional intrusion
                                                                         into the rights of the states. Congress simply does not have
This isn’t the first time this year that felony                          the constitutional authority to force states to restore the
disenfranchisement has hit our radar. Back in early                      voting rights of convicted felons’’ according to this article
January, the 9th Circuit said that Washington state’s felony             at main justice. Spakovsky, a critic of the disparate impact
disenfranchisement law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.           theory, goes on to say ‘’criminals lose their right to vote
This ruling goes even further than the bill before Congress              because of their own conscious actions in violating the law,
in that it would restore voting rights to felons still behind            not because of their race.’’

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Description: The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HR 3335, also known as the Democracy Restoration Act of 2009.
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