Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) re-introduced the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act of 2015 on Friday, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that would restore federal voting rights for non-violent, “low-level” ex-offenders.
Sen. Paul explained,
“A criminal record is currently one of the biggest impediments to voting in federal elections. The Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act will reform existing federal law and give low-level ex-offenders another opportunity to vote.”
Non-violent, so-called "low-level" crimes include:
- Theft, trespassing, arson, and other forms of property offenses
- Fraud, bribery, and other forms of “white collar” offenses
- Drug possession
- Public intoxication
Whether a crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony will depend on a variety of aggravating factors, such as the number of offenses, economic impact, and so on.
Dependent upon the type of conviction, voting rights for ex-offenders also vary from state to state.
For instance, in Maine, the right to vote is never taken away, even when imprisoned.
Individuals incarcerated for a felony in Washington, D.C. are ineligible to vote, but voting rights are restored upon release, on parole or probation.
In Florida, individuals incarcerated, on parole, or on probation are ineligible to vote. Ex-offenders with certain felonies—such as murder, assault, child abuse, drug trafficking, and arson—are subject to a seven-year waiting period.
Some states are stricter than others.
The Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act was first introduced in June 2014 but failed to be enacted.
“This is an issue that I feel strongly about," Sen. Paul said, "and I will continue to fight for the restoration of voting rights in the hopes of giving non-violent ex-offenders a second chance."