Some Southern states retain Jim Crow-era laws that strip voting rights from people convicted of certain crimes, even after they’ve paid their debt to society. In addition, numerous states have adopted laws in recent years to suppress voting by vulnerable populations such as minority groups, the poor and the elderly.
Through litigation, legislative advocacy and education, the SPLC is working to end systematic voter suppression and to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to make their voice heard at the ballot box.
Through the Alabama Voting Rights Project, we’re going door to door helping Alabamians restore their right to vote. After the passage of the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act in 2017, Alabama finally clarified which felonies will not disqualify citizens from voting. Now, tens of thousands of people are eligible to restore their right to vote through a simple application to the state.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of newly enfranchised people don’t know about their restored voting rights. We’re working alongside the Campaign Legal Center to convey a simple message across the state: A felony conviction does not always mean you lose your right to vote.
Mississippi is one of only four states to impose lifelong voting bans for people convicted of certain felonies. The law is a relic of the state’s 1890 Constitution, a Jim Crow-era document designed specifically to disenfranchise African Americans following Reconstruction. It’s still having its intended effect: One in six black adults in the state – and a total of more than 200,000 Mississippians – can’t cast a ballot. The law even allows legislators to decide, on an individual basis, whose rights to restore.
We filed a lawsuit against the state to overturn this discriminatory law on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution, including the 14th Amendment because it arbitrarily grants or deprives citizens of the right to vote and was intended to discriminate on the basis of race.
We helped secure the Voting Restoration Amendment. The statewide ballot initiative (Amendment 4) would reinstate the voting rights of 1.4 million Floridians who have been convicted of a felony at some point in their lives. These people – disproportionately people of color – have paid their debt to society and yet the state continues to silence their voices.
We’ve filed an amicus brief, along with The Sentencing Project and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s felony disenfranchisement policy. Our brief demonstrates how Louisiana’s felony disenfranchisement laws are rooted in racial discrimination.
We also worked successfully to pass legislation in 2018 to restore voting rights to thousands of Louisiana residents who have been on probation or parole for five years.
Teaching Tolerance’s Voting and Voices Project supports educators as they register and motivate young voters and encourage students of all ages to become empowered and enthusiastic voting advocates. We’re providing educators with a pledge for students to take home to their families to commit to using their voices and votes in the 2018 election. In partnership with Rock the Vote, the project will also offer Democracy Class as a resource for teaching about voting as well as resources for facilitating student-led voter registration drives.
SPLC on Campus
We’re providing information and resources to help our SPLC on Campus clubs implement voting registration drives at their college or university.