6,000 Coloradoans illegally excluded from voting
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2005
While thousands of Colorado citizens cast their ballots on November 1, more than 6,000 Coloradoans were illegally excluded from the polls by a state statute enacted in the early 1990s, according to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado.
The Colorado statute forbids persons on parole from voting or registering to vote.
According to the ACLU, the Colorado Constitution provides that offenders lose their right to vote only during the time they are incarcerated in prison. Their right to vote is automatically restored when they complete their sentence and are released on parole, Silverstein said.
“More than 6,000 Coloradoans on parole have completed their prison sentence, and they should be entitled to vote under the Colorado Constitution,” Silverstein said. “But in the early 1990s, the Colorado legislature passed a statute that says that persons serving sentences of parole cannot vote and cannot register to vote. We believe that this Colorado statute violates the state constitution, and the ACLU plans to raise this issue in the legislature and the courts in the coming months.”
Around the country, as many as five million Americans are barred from voting by a variety of state laws that forbid convicted felons from voting for some period of time. In some states, felons are barred from voting for the rest of their lives. About a dozen states restore the right to vote when an offender leaves prison, and others restore the right to vote after parole is completed. In two states, prisoners can vote while they are serving their prison sentences.
“Restoring the right to vote to former prisoners is consistent with our country’s principles of fairness and equal protection,” Silverstein said. “We should encourage rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Former prisoners are more likely to respect our legal system and to feel they have a stake in society when they are not deliberately excluded from the democratic process.”
A number of organizations in recent years have criticized the harshness of state laws that deprive former prisoners of the right to vote. The American Bar Association supports restoring the right to vote, as does the American Correctional Association.