Campaign will help felons learn about voting rights

Published 4:56 pm Saturday, June 24, 2017

By Mary Stewart | The Selma Times-Journal

Legal Services Alabama and American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama are launching a new voting rights campaign at the Brown Chapel A.M.E.

Brown Chapel was an important location for activist during the civil rights movement and will prove its importance again as it will be a place for lawyers to learn about a new law.

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Up until the passing of a recent law, people convicted of “crimes of moral turpitude” were no longer able to vote.

The issue people had with the law was that it was left up to county registrars to decide what crimes of moral turpitude consist of.

The new law will bring hope to people who have been wrongfully stripped of their voting rights because it will give a clear definition of what is and is not a crime of moral turpitude.

The law will require those who have been wrongfully stripped of their rights to comply with a process for application with the Board of Pardons and Parole.

“The ACLU of Alabama is proud to work with Legal Services of Alabama in a campaign to restore voting rights,” Randall Marshall, Acting Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama said. “Felon disenfranchisement laws are vestiges of the Jim Crow era. The fundamental right to vote extends to every American citizen.”

The Executive Director of Legal Services of Alabama weighed in with his thoughts on how this change will impact our state.

“If we take reentry for ex-offenders seriously, we have to recognize that re-entry means resumption of the rights and privileges of American citizenship,” he said. “Helping these men and women comply with their legal obligations fills a new, unmet need for many of the low-income Alabamians who are our client base.”

The law does not affect those who have convicted heinous acts of crime, like rape or murder. These felons will still be barred from ever regaining their right to vote.

The felons this law will impact have committed crime such as, common driving offenses, receiving stolen property, drug possession for personal use, and other drug related misconducts.

There will be “restoration clinics” hosted in churches in Birmingham, Mobile and Selma this summer.

During the fall, they will expand the clinics across the state.

“Effective legal aid for the poor requires taking your work to the neighborhoods where disadvantaged people live,” Davis said.

“That is why we are drawing on the clergy community and why we will literally be going on the road in Birmingham, Mobile, and the Black Belt in late summer.”

The Voter Rights Registration Training will be held on July 8 at 1 p.m. at the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma. The dates of the restoration clinics will begin in mid to late July, and will be announced in coming weeks.

If you have any questions, contact Rebecca Seung-Bickley at (334) 420-1743 or Desiree Taylor at (334) 832-1427.