Advocates still trying to spread awareness of voting rights and restoration law for former inmates

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - U.S. Sen. Doug Jones is among Senate Democrats calling for an overhaul of U.S. voting laws, including ones that would impact voter restoration for inmates. On the state level, organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and Campaign Legal Center are working to restore voting rights for former inmates.

Some were led to believe they lost their rights even if they never did. In 2017, Governor Kay Ivey passed a law that clarified which felony convictions did not take away a person's right to vote. Thousands of people thought they lost that right when they didn't. It's a battle inmate rights advocates are still fighting today.

Here in Huntsville, Adrian Muller commits his life to helping people who completed their prison sentences. He's the president of the Alabama Non-Violent Offenders Organization. Friday, he spent his afternoon helping convicted felons understand their voting rights.

"To me, part of it is suppression," Muller said. "Voter suppression of people who may haveĀ  troubled pasts."

Before Governor Ivey signed the 2017 law that clarified which laws did not take away the right to vote, it was up to Alabama officials in each county to decide which felonies disqualified voters.

"Once she signed it into law, they didn't do a marketing campaign to inform over 75,000 offenders who are qualified," Muller said.

Convictions that do not disqualify people from restoring their voting rights include theft of property, robbery, and burglary.

"Majority of these individuals are working, paying taxes, putting their best foot forward, so not allowing them to do that is kind of like a slap in the face from this country," Muller said.

In Alabama, a person never lost his/her right to vote if you were convicted as a youthful offender. And, a person does not lose the right unless they were convicted of a prohibited felony. Convictions like misdemeanors, DUIs, drug possession don't count.

"Right now in the prison system, people are eligible to vote," Muller explained. "But, they're not given access to the ballots or people are not allowed for them to come in to cast their votes."

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, if you are currently incarcerated for one of these offenses, you can still vote. See the Sheriff or Warden to obtain a voter registration card or an absentee ballot.

People convicted of crimes like murder, sex crimes or treason are not eligible for voter restoration. You can only apply to restore your voting rights IF you are granted a full pardon by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Treason and Impeachment are not pardonable offenses.

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