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Bill Would Restore Voting Rights to Parolees, Pre-Trial Detainees

Other New England states are ahead of Connecticut in restoring voting rights to people in the criminal justice system. (landrachuk/Pixabay)
Other New England states are ahead of Connecticut in restoring voting rights to people in the criminal justice system. (landrachuk/Pixabay)
March 15, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. – A bill to restore the vote to thousands of Connecticut residents is getting a hearing Thursday in the General Assembly.

The Government Administration and Elections Committee is hearing testimony on HB 5418. If passed the bill would give some 4,000 people who are in custody but have not been convicted of a crime access to ballots, and it would restore voting rights to another 3,000 who are on parole.

According to Kennard Ray, chair of the Full Citizen Coalition to Unlock the Vote, the legislation would bring Connecticut's voting rights laws into line with every other state in New England.

"Both Vermont and Maine do not restrict voting rights at any time, even for folks that are incarcerated,” Ray points out. “And Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have all included folks that are on parole."

Ten other states and Washington, D.C. also allow people who are on parole to vote.

Ray explains that, technically, people in Connecticut who have not been convicted of a crime but are held in pretrial detention do have the right to vote, but they need access to absentee ballots or other means to cast their votes.

"Places such as California; Alabama; Cook County, Ill.; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and Vermont and Maine allow this group access to the ballot," he states.

Ray adds that disenfranchising voters doesn't increase public safety or help reintegrate the formerly incarcerated into their community.

Ray says 17 years ago Connecticut passed legislation restoring voting rights to people on probation, but that still left thousands with no voice in their government.

"No full citizen ever deserves to be locked out of their right to vote,” he states. “It's a constitutional right, it's a civil right, it's not a privilege, and it's time that Connecticut takes its place and moves this forward."

The hearing on House Bill 5418 is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in room 1A of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT