Community Organizations Encourage All Eligible Persons With Felony Convictions to Register to Vote
The Voice of Formerly Incarcerated Persons Must Not Be Lost
Santa Fe -- Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, the Santa Fe Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association have joined to raise awareness and encourage persons with felony convictions to register to vote. In 2001, all three organizations played a key role when the New Mexico State Legislature restored voting rights to people convicted of felonies that have completed all terms of their sentences, probation and/or parole. The bill was sponsored by Senator Richard Romero in 2001.
"Seventy to eighty thousand New Mexicans with felony convictions were disenfranchised during the last presidential election. We want to make them aware of the rights that have been restored to them and encourage them to reclaim their electoral voice," said Reena Szczepanski, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico.
Historically, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by felony disenfranchisement laws. "As a national civil rights organization, the NAACP will not tolerate any violation of either state or federal voting rights legislation, as well as any discrimination against any citizen--white, black or brown--that would block a citizen's right to vote," said Agnes Moses, President of the Santa Fe Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Six percent of New Mexicans were barred from registering and voting in the 2000 elections because of a felony conviction. "But when you look at the people who actually lost the right to vote, the analysis is disturbing. For example, one in four African American voters in the state was disenfranchised until the law changed in 2001," said Szczepanski. Hispanics also have been disproportionately affected, currently representing 42% of the state population and 60% of the prison population. Additionally, an estimated 12% of voters disenfranchised in the 2000 election were veterans.
Moses added, "All New Mexico re-enfranchised citizens whose voting rights were restored by the 2001 state legislation should contact the office of a local county clerk if there are any questions on ex-felons' voting rights, in addition to information on the October 5 voter registration deadline, durations of absentee and early voting, polling hours, and locations on election day, November 2."
"The nuts and bolts are that in order for ex-felons in New Mexico to vote, they simply need to show a copy of their discharge papers to the County Clerk when they go to register. They can also register by mail, as long as they include that same proof. The key point is that the registration deadline is October 5th," said Cathy Ansheles, Executive Director of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
The Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico is distributing flyers in English and Spanish that describes how people with felony convictions can register to vote. For copies of the flyers, please call (505) 983-3277.