/Almost 70% of Mississippians support restoring voting rights to some ex-felons, poll finds

Almost 70% of Mississippians support restoring voting rights to some ex-felons, poll finds

Tulchin Research conducted the poll of registered voters. The poll was released on the final day of passing bills out of committee. Democrat legislators pushed for a bill to re-enfranchise those with felony convictions after they have completed their sentences. “What’s most exciting is that for far too many years, the proposition was that people should not be punished forever,” stated Jody Owens (managing attorney of the SPLC), who is currently suing Mississippi over its constitutional disenfranchisement laws. “This poll demonstrates… that people favor forgiveness when people have met their obligations under law.” Mississippi permanently removes people from their right to vote if they are convicted of certain disenfranchising offenses. These 22 crimes, which were established by the state constitution of 1890, range from murder and sexual assault to writing bad checks or receiving stolen property. Sixty-eight% of those polled supported restoring voting rights to people convicted of felony offenses, provided they have not been convicted of sexual or murder. Demographic breakdown shows that 60 percent of Republicans supported the measure while 82 percent of Democrats opposed it. According to the poll, 23 percent opposed such a measure. Tuesday’s speech in support of S.B. was made by Democratic leaders Rep. David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) and Sen. Derrick Simmons (D-Greenville). 2508, which would allow people who have been convicted of disqualifying crimes to regain their voting rights after they have completed their sentences in prison, is being presented to the Capitol rotunda Tuesday. The bill provides that people sentenced to probation will be eligible to vote as soon as they are released from prison. “It’s time for us to make this happen,” Baria, the House’s minority leader, said. He was referring to Amendment 4 in Florida, which was approved by 64 percent of voters in November. After a person has been sentenced to a felony, that amendment automatically restores their right to vote. Before Amendment 4, Florida was the leader in the country for the number of residents who were disenfranchised. Mississippi now holds this title. According to The Sentencing Project, Mississippi has 10 percent of the disenfranchised Mississippians. The House could consider a bill to establish a study panel on the topic. People convicted in Mississippi of disenfranchising crimes cannot have their suffrage restored by the Legislature. This requires a two-thirds majority vote from both houses. In federal court, the Mississippi Center for Justice also challenges the state’s disenfranchisement laws. Owens of the SPLC did not rule out the possibility that signatures could be collected for a ballot initiative to amend state constitution. To be considered, the initiative would need to have at least 12 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial elections. To pass the amendment, it would need a simple majority vote.