The Rural Restoration Project

Geographical Area

Montgomery, Lowndes, Autauga, and Elmore Counties, Alabama

Problem

At least 286,000 Alabamians have had their right to vote taken away because of prior felony convictions. In the summer of 2017, a new law passed that immediately made many of those Alabamians eligible to register to vote again; it also carved out a path to voting rights restoration for thousands more whose rights were not immediately restored. It was a major victory for voting rights advocates in Alabama, but the state has refused to contact impacted voters to let them know that they can have their voting rights restored. As a result, many of the Alabamians who were told by the state that they would never be able to vote again have no idea that the law has changed. In the absence of meaningful state implementation, the impact of this change in law will depend entirely upon grassroots capacity to reach people who have previously lost their rights because of felony convictions.

As a research component to the fellowship, we collaborated with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice by weaving questions about felony disenfranchisement into a statewide survey that they led investigating court debt. We administered 879 in-person surveys to Alabamians with court debt across 41 of Alabama’s 67 counties, and we found that:

55.7

% were not registered to vote due to a felony conviction

71.1

% of voters who lost their voting rights due to felony convictions did not know that the law had changed

4.9

% of disenfranchised Alabamians who knew about the change in law learned about it from a state employee

Solution

The Rural Restoration Project will restore voting rights to Alabamians who have been disenfranchised because of felony convictions in the past. We will do so by building a coordinated regional coalition with the infrastructure, resources, and manpower to attack the problem systemically.

Press

Alabama sees spike in ex-felon voting registrations; advocates see room for improvement

Published by The Montgomery Advertiser on November 2, 2018

“The state has demonstrably wronged and harmed tens to hundreds of thousands of Alabamians by stripping their voting rights in error and is now refusing to take proactive action to correct that error,” Sweeney said in The Montgomery Advertiser.

Read the story

 

Unless Florida learns from Alabama’s mistakes, voting rights restoration may go unrealized

Published by The Tamba Bay Times on December 14, 2018

“A 2017 change in Alabama state law restored Ms. Thomas’ rights, but no one told her the good news…”

Read the story

 

Resources

Are you interested in Alabama’s voting rights restoration? The Campaign Legal Center created a manual for activists and advocates to help people with convictions in Alabama vote.

Voting Rights Restoration Manual


Questions?

Contact Dana Sweeney at dtpsweeney@gmail.com

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