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H.R. 25 (ih) To amend part B of title XVIII of the Social Security Act to make technical corrections relating to the enactment of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1994, and for other purposes. [Introduced in House] ...


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108th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 259

 To secure the Federal voting rights of persons who have been released 
                          from incarceration.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                            January 8, 2003

  Mr. Conyers (for himself, Mr. Frost, Mr. Rangel, Ms. Jackson-Lee of 
  Texas, Ms. Waters, Mr. Clyburn, Mr. Davis of Illinois, Mr. Brown of 
  Ohio, Mr. Rush, Mr. Owens, Ms. Kilpatrick, Mr. Wynn, Mr. Jackson of 
 Illinois, Mr. Hastings of Florida, Mr. Fattah, Ms. Lee, Mr. Cummings, 
     Mr. Brady of Pennsylvania, Mr. Ford, Mrs. Jones of Ohio, Ms. 
 Schakowsky, Mr. Lewis of Georgia, Ms. Norton, Mr. Moran of Virginia, 
 Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, and Mr. Kucinich) introduced the 
  following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
 To secure the Federal voting rights of persons who have been released 
                          from incarceration.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Civic Participation and 
Rehabilitation Act of 2003''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    The Congress makes the following findings:
            (1) The right to vote is the most basic constitutive act of 
        citizenship and regaining the right to vote reintegrates 
        offenders into free society. The right to vote may not be 
        abridged or denied by the United States or by any State on 
        account of race, color, gender or previous condition of 
        servitude. Basic constitutional principles of fairness and 
        equal protection require an equal opportunity for Americans to 
        vote in Federal elections. Congress has ultimate supervisory 
        power over Federal elections, an authority which has repeatedly 
        been upheld by the Supreme Court.
            (2) Congress finds three areas where discrepancies in State 
        laws regarding felony convictions lead to unfairness in Federal 
        elections: (A) there is no uniform standard for voting in 
        Federal elections which leads to an unfair disparity and 
        unequal participation in Federal elections based solely on 
        where a person lives; (B) laws governing the restoration of 
        voting rights after a felony conviction are unequal throughout 
        the country and persons in some States can easily regain their 
        voting rights while in other States persons effectively lose 
        their right to vote permanently; and (C) State 
        disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact ethnic 
        minorities.
            (3) Although State law determines the qualifications for 
        voting, Congress must ensure that those laws are in accordance 
        with the Constitution. Current laws vary throughout the country 
        resulting in discrepancies regarding which citizens may vote in 
        Federal elections.
            (4) An estimated 3,900,000 Americans, or one in fifty 
        adults, currently cannot vote as a result of a felony 
        conviction. Women represent about a half million of this total. 
        Disenfranchisement results from varying State laws that 
        restrict voting while under some form of criminal justice 
        supervision or after the completion of a felony sentence in 
        some States. Four States do not disenfranchise felons at all 
        (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont). Forty-six 
        States and the District of Columbia have disenfranchisement 
        laws that deprive convicted offenders of the right to vote 
        while they are in prison. In thirty-two States, convicted 
        offenders may not vote while they are on parole and in twenty-
        nine States probationers may not vote. Fourteen States 
        disenfranchise ex-offenders who have fully served their 
        sentences, regardless of the nature or seriousness of the 
        offense. Three-fourths (73%) of  the 3,900,000 disqualified 
voters are not in prison, but are on probation, parole or are ex-
offenders.
            (5) In those States that disenfranchise ex-offenders, the 
        right to vote can be regained in theory, but in practice this 
        possibility is often illusory. In eight States, a pardon or 
        order from the Governor is required. In two States, ex-
        offenders must obtain action by the parole or pardon board. 
        Offenders convicted of a Federal offense often have additional 
        barriers to regaining voting rights. In at least 16 States, 
        Federal offenders cannot use the State procedure for restoring 
        their civil rights. The only method provided by Federal law for 
        restoring voting rights to ex-offenders is a Presidential 
        pardon. Few persons who seek to have their right to vote 
        restored have the financial and political resources needed to 
        succeed.
            (6) Thirteen percent of the African American adult male 
        population, or 1,400,000 African American men, are 
        disenfranchised. Given current rates of incarceration, three in 
        ten of the next generation of black men will be disenfranchised 
        at some point during their lifetime. Hispanic citizens are also 
        disproportionately disenfranchised since they are 
        disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.
            (7) These discrepancies should be addressed by Congress. 
        Basic concepts of fundamental fairness and equal protection 
        require an equal opportunity for Americans to vote in Federal 
        elections. This Act will restore fairness in the Federal 
        election process and promote reintegration of former offenders 
        into a life as law abiding citizens of the United States.

SEC. 3. RIGHTS OF CITIZENS.

    The right of an individual who is a citizen of the United States to 
vote in any election for Federal office shall not be denied or abridged 
because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense unless 
such individual is serving a felony sentence in a correctional 
institution or facility at the time of the election.

SEC. 4. ENFORCEMENT.

    (a) Attorney General.--The Attorney General may, in a civil action, 
obtain such declaratory or injunctive relief as is necessary to remedy 
a violation of this Act.
    (b) Private Right of Action.--
            (1) A person who is aggrieved by a violation of this Act 
        may provide written notice of the violation to the chief 
        election official of the State involved.
            (2) Except as provided in paragraph (3), if the violation 
        is not corrected within 90 days after receipt of a notice under 
        paragraph (1), or within 20 days after receipt of the notice if 
the violation occurred within 120 days before the date of an election 
for Federal office, the aggrieved person may, in a civil action obtain 
declaratory or injunctive relief with respect to the violation.
            (3) If the violation occurred within 30 days before the 
        date of an election for Federal office, the aggrieved person 
        need not provide notice to the chief election official of the 
        State under paragraph (1) before bringing a civil action to 
        obtain declaratory or injunctive relief with respect to the 
        violation.

SEC. 5. DEFINITIONS.

    For purposes of this Act--
            (1) the term ``correctional institution or facility'' means 
        any prison, penitentiary, jail, or other institution or 
        facility for the confinement of individuals convicted of 
        criminal offenses, whether publicly or privately operated, 
        except that such term does not include any residential 
        community treatment center (or similar public or private 
        facility);
            (2) the term ``election'' means--
                    (A) a general, special, primary, or runoff 
                election;
                    (B) a convention or caucus of a political party 
                held to nominate a candidate;
                    (C) a primary election held for the selection of 
                delegates to a national nominating convention of a 
                political party; or
                    (D) a primary election held for the expression of a 
                preference for the nomination of persons for election 
                to the office of President; and
            (3) the term ``Federal office'' means the office of 
        President or Vice President of the United States, or of Senator 
        or Representative in, or Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, 
        the Congress of the United States.

SEC. 6. RELATION TO OTHER LAWS.

    (a) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit the States 
enacting any State law which affords the right to vote in any election 
for Federal office on terms less restrictive than those established by 
this Act.
    (b) The rights and remedies established by this Act are in addition 
to all other rights and remedies provided by law, and neither rights 
and remedies established by this Act shall supersede, restrict, or 
limit the application of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 
et seq.) or the National Voter Registration Act (42 U.S.C. 1973-gg).

SEC. 7. FEDERAL PRISON FUNDS.

    No State, unit of local government, or other person may receive or 
use, to construct or otherwise improve a prison, jail, or other place 
of incarceration, any Federal grant amounts unless that person has in 
effect a program under which each individual incarcerated in that 
person's jurisdiction who is a citizen of the United States is 
notified, upon release from such incarceration, of that individual's 
rights under section 3.
                                 <all>

Pages: 1

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