Take Action on Voting Rights Restoration
Although we often think of the history of voting rights in the US as one of ever-forward motion, Massachusetts stands as an outlier. In the late 1990s, after incarcerated individuals in MCI-Norfolk started organizing for better conditions, Republican Governor Bill Cellucci and the MA Legislature responded with retaliation: a multi-step process of disenfranchisement. In 2000, Massachusetts voters approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit people incarcerated for felonies in state prison from voting in state elections; the subsequent year, Cellucci signed a law to extend this prohibition to federal and municipal elections. Our commonwealth did something rare in recent history: it took away the right to vote from a category of people who were formerly enfranchised.
Approximately 8,000 residents of the Commonwealth are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, more than 50% of them are Black or Latinx -- exacerbating the systemic racism of the criminal legal system.
In 2022, the Massachusetts Legislature took an important step forward when passing the VOTES Act by including language creating protections for jail-based voting for those who still maintain the right to vote, but we must build on that momentum by ending remaining disenfranchisement.
On April 26, 2023, the Joint Committee on Election Laws took the significant step of giving a favorable report to S.8/H.26, constitutional amendments filed by Sen. Liz Miranda and Adam Gomez and Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven that would ensure that incarceration never leads to a loss of voting rights. But the Legislature must advance the vote in a constitutional convention. Reach out to your legislator today!