Alabama Governor Should Sign Bill Restoring Voting Rights to Some People Subjected to Arbitrary ‘Moral Turpitude’ Law

May 18, 2017
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Alabama legislature moves in the right direction by passing bill to set a clear legal standard; the law still leaves many citizens without recourse

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, the Alabama Legislature passed HB 282, a bill that defines what crimes involve “moral turpitude” for the purposes of determining which citizens can vote. The bill’s language expressly admits that, as CLC has argued in Thompson v. Alabama, until now there has been “no comprehensive list of felonies that involve moral turpitude,” leaving the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of people to the whims of individual registrars.

“This bill is a step in the right direction,” said Danielle Lang, deputy director of voting rights at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “With a stroke of her pen, Governor Ivey could enfranchise many Alabamians that have been wrongly denied the right to vote by the state’s longstanding, arbitrary process of disenfranchisement. We commend the legislature for taking the problem of Alabama’s inherently discriminatory ‘moral turpitude’ standard seriously and finally taking initial steps to resolve it.”

But this bill does not fully resolve Alabama’s deeply troublesome felon disenfranchisement laws. The process is still inherently racially discriminatory and overbroad, permanently disenfranchising many individuals, including many convicted of non-violent crimes. Alabama is one of only a dozen states that disenfranchises individuals after they complete their sentences. The bill also does not address Alabama’s system of conditioning restoration of the right to vote based on wealth, in violation of the United States Constitution. CLC continues to work on behalf of Alabama citizens to restore their right to vote.

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