In this week’s US elections a huge amount of interest has been focused on Proposition 19, the Bill to legalise cannabis, however there is a campaign to address a far more important issue for democracy in the United States an estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions.
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers have introduced the Democracy Restoration Act to address the issue through restoring voting rights to these citizens.
Losing the right to vote is an obstacle to participation in democratic life which is exacerbated by racial disparities in the criminal justice system, resulting in an estimated 13% of Black men unable to vote.
In the words of the testimony of Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau
“The so-called “war on drugs” has had a disproportionate impact on African Americans; between 1985 and 1995, there was an unacceptably high incarceration increase of 306% for White Americans. Over the same time period, however, there was an unbelievable and completely unacceptable increase by 707% in the number of African Americans in state prison for a drug offense.”
A number of recent United States elections have been very close. George W. Bush only became President on the slimmest of margins in 2000 and then proceeded to export US style democracy to Iraq. It is hard not to wonder what form US democracy would have taken if the vote was extended to all.
Campaigners for the passage of the Bill are urging supporters to phone their elected representatives in Washington D.C. to urge them to support the Bill. Details of this campaign can be found here.
If you are making calls to support Proposition 19 in California then please take some time out to call Washington and voice your support for those who have been disenfranchised in the ‘war on drugs’.