WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jorge Renaud spent 27 years in Texas prisons for three different sentences.
He was last released in 2008 for an aggravated robbery conviction.
“Being in prison gave me time to look at myself and get some insight into who I was, the things I had done wrong,” said Renaud.
Renaud is now an outspoken advocate for formerly incarcerated people and serves as the National Criminal Justice Director and Director of the Southwest Region for LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
Under Texas law, Renaud will be 93 years old when he’s able to vote again because of his criminal record.
“That makes me a lesser citizen and it’s punishment upon punishment,” said Renaud.
Renaud is one of millions of Americans unable to vote because of felony convictions.
A new report from the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group pushing for criminal justice reform, found that an estimated 4.6 million Americans will not be able to vote this election cycle because of felony convictions.
It said three out of four of people who fall under this restriction have fully completed their sentences or remain on supervised probation or parole.
The rates are disproportionately higher for minorities.
The laws vary by state.
Only two states, Maine and Vermont, and Washington D.C., allow people in prison to vote, according to the findings.
All 48 other states have some kind of restriction for voting rights for people with felony convictions.
There are 26 states with laws banning voting for people on felony-level probation or parole, and 11 states ban voting for some people who have successfully completed their prison, parole or probation sentences, according to the report.
Democrats in Congress introduced a broader voting reform bill last year which would have restored voting rights for people with felony convictions.
That bill failed after facing backlash from Republicans who argued it was politically motivated.
“This would register vast numbers of criminals and felons to vote because Democrats have made the decision that criminals and felons are likely to vote for Democrats,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in June 2021.
“Why would you want to restore a felon’s right to vote?” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “I have not heard anyone yet give a good argument that’s persuasive.”
We asked Nicole Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy at the Sentencing Project, how the organization responds to people who say they don’t want people with felony convictions to be able to vote.
“People are held accountable in many ways,” said Porter. Not just through their arrest but also through their terms of confinement… These folks are still citizens. They are still participating in their community and have opinions about who should govern them.”
The report said in the last 25 years, half of the states in the country have passed laws scaling back voting restrictions for people with felony convictions.
“We are moving in the right direction,” said Porter.
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