April 23, 2024 2:44 am
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Group works to help GA residents understand, restore voting rights

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Shanteya Hudson, Public News Service

As people in Georgia mobilize for the 2024 General Election, one group wants to make it easier for those with felony records to understand their voting rights — and get them reinstated, if needed.

The Campaign Legal Center’s “Restore Your Vote” campaign includes an online “Restore Your Vote” tool.

It’s estimated that about 275,000 Georgia residents have been disenfranchised because of felony convictions. However, Blair Bowie, Restore Your Vote campaign director for the Campaign Legal Center, said voting laws are complex and different from state to state — and many people don’t know they could restore their rights.

“So, in Georgia and North Carolina, restoration of voting rights is automatic once a person has finished probation and parole,” she explained. “So, at that point, they can just go ahead and register to vote.”

Nationally, it is estimated that up to 18 million people with felony records still have the right to vote.

Bowie said the Restore Your Vote tool asks questions related to felony convictions and sentence completion, based on the state where the person resides. It can provide information on whether their right to vote has been restored or when that can happen, and what steps they can take to proactively regain these rights.

Bowie said the Campaign Legal Center also offers resources and training for groups doing voter registration and canvassing. She said they want to avoid people being prosecuted for making an honest mistake while attempting to vote because of uncertainty about their voting rights, or receiving the wrong information about their voting status at the polls.

“Last Election Day, in 2022, we got a lot of calls to our hotline from folks in Georgia who had been registered to vote, but they showed up at the polls and were told that they were ‘ineligible’ because of past felony convictions,” she said, “and that information was incorrect.”

She said that’s one reason it’s important for people to check their voting registration status long before Election Day. For people who run into issues, Bowie recommended contacting the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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