House clarifies list of crimes that bar right to vote

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With broad support from both parties, lawmakers in the House passed legislation to clarify voting rights for ex-offenders on Tuesday (99/1). The Kennedy-McClammy Act HB344 offers a comprehensive list of felonies that involve conduct contrary to standards of justice or morality, or moral turpitude.

Under Alabama’s constitution, those convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude are disqualified from voting. However, county election boards can make their own judgments on which felonies involve moral turpitude.

Republican Rep. Mike Jones said he drafted the legislation to avoid confusion and subjective treatment of ex-offenders.

“If we have one definitive list, no county can make up its own definition. The goal today is to be as clear as we can and get all the counties working under one standard,” Jones said. “The Alabama statute provided a starting point, but frankly, there have been crimes passed since then – such as securities fraud and child torture – that weren’t addressed before but would now part of this uniform standard.”

The bill outlines 40 felony convictions – including distribution of marijuana, child torture, and securities fraud – that can take away the right to vote.

Democrats pointed out that a statewide definition would give those convicted of a felony a clear path to have their vote reinstated, but called for more inclusion of white collar felonies of equal impact.

“It’s hypocritical to pick and choose what we’re going to count as a crime,” said Rep. Craig Ford of Etowah County. “If we’re going to do this, we need to include all types of felony fraud convictions, as well as a way to expunge felonies for nonviolent offenders.”

If enacted, the law would require the Secretary of State to inform county election boards of the new definition and ensure the standard is followed across the state.

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