Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: February 23, 2012
Sen. Constance N. Johnson
Restoration of Voting Rights Act fails in Senate Rules Committee
The voting rights of convicted felons in Oklahoma will continue
to be suspended for the length of time prescribed in the judgment
and sentence, including time on probation or parole. Senate Bill
1307, by Sen. Constance
N. Johnson, was defeated earlier this week by the Senate Rules
Committee. The bill would have restored felons’ voting rights
when they are no longer in prison. Also known as the Oklahoma Restoration
of Voting Rights Act, the bill mirrors legislation, S. 2017, introduced
by Democrat Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse
of Rhode Island. That measure is currently being considered by Congress.
“Voting is both a fundamental right and a civic duty, yet
even after people have paid their debt to society, we continue to
punish them and make them feel that their opinions don’t matter,”
said Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. “I’m concerned that
so many of my colleagues would deny this basic right of citizenship
to those who have served their time and are no longer in prison.
Voting is essential to the process of reintegrating into society.
The fact that we are so unforgiving is a sad state of affairs.”
Johnson noted that many people are released early for good behavior
or other reasons, yet they will still be unable to vote until the
original time of their sentence passes, which could be several years.
The bill also included a process to ensure that those who are in
custody, but not convicted, would also be able to vote.
“When individuals are released from prison, they are expected
to follow the rules of being a responsible citizen – find
a job, pay taxes and obey the law, yet the full rights of citizenship
are being withheld,” said Johnson. “It’s unfair
and it keeps people from fully reintegrating into society when we
continue to treat them like throw away citizens. Someday, we need
to right this wrong.”
The measure failed with ten Senators voting against it (Senators
Rob Johnson, Jonathan Nichols, Patrick Anderson, Cliff Branan, Eddie
Fields, John Ford, David Holt, Dan Newberry, John Sparks and Charles
Wyrick) and only five Senators supporting it (Sen. Josh Brecheen,
Judy Eason McIntyre, Jerry Ellis, Earl Garrison and Al McAffrey).
For more information contact:
Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5531