On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in support of legislation that would automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felony offenders who have served their time.

Across the country, as incarceration rates have increased, more and more people have been charged with felonies, and for nearly six million people, that means a permanent loss of the fundamental right to vote.

While we don’t know exactly how many people have been disenfranchised in Wyoming, an analysis by the Department of Corrections shows in 2013 alone, 1,178 people charged with felonies completed their sentences. If HB 75 passes, thousands of people could automatically have their right to vote restored.

Criminal disenfranchisement is rooted in the English common law practice of “civil death,” or loss of citizenship rights such as the right to vote or serve on a jury, as a criminal penalty. In the United States, the modern practice of felony disenfranchisement became particularly widespread in the Jim Crow era. After Reconstruction, white lawmakers codified felony disenfranchisement laws that explicitly targeted African Americans to diminish their electoral strength.

We strongly encourage the full House to vote out HB 75 with a favorable recommendation, and Wyoming may very well become the next state to recognize the benefit to reinstating voting rights to citizens who have served their time.

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