Brennan Center Urges Congress to Pass Democracy Restoration Act

Based on Brennan Center Proposal, Bill Would Restore Voting Rights to 4.4 Million Americans

Washington, D.C. – Today, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4.4 million Americans citizens with criminal convictions in their past.

Based on a Brennan Center proposal, the bill builds on recent support for rights restoration. In February, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to restore voting rights. But 35 states continue to disenfranchise people after they are released from prison. The Democracy Restoration Act would restore voting rights to these citizens for federal elections.

“Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Center’s Washington, D.C., office. “Restoring voting rights to citizens who have served their time will strengthen our democracy.Congress should move quickly to pass this bill and ensure our voting system is free, fair, and accessible to all eligible Americans.”

“Restoring voting rights to people with past criminal convictions will expand our democracy, increase public safety, and streamline America’s election system,” said Democracy Program Deputy Director Myrna Pérez. “Voting, and the responsibility that goes with it, increases a person’s stake in their community, helping transform a former prisoner from an outsider into a law-abiding citizen. Congress should pass it without delay.”

The Democracy Restoration Act has garnered broad support from a diverse coalition that includes law enforcement associations, the faith community, racial justice advocates, and civil rights organizations. Versions of the bill were introduced in past sessions of Congress.

View the Brennan Center’s proposal to restore voting rights upon release from incarceration, and our state-by-state guide on criminal disenfranchisement laws. Read more on the Democracy Restoration Act.