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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 30, 2021

Biden supports bill to restore voting rights to felons

As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised to incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. 

As president, he hasn't done that, but he has supported pending legislation that would go a step further: requiring states to restore felons' voting rights for federal elections after they leave prison. 

The legislation, H.R 1, passed the House in March and had a hearing in a Senate committee, but it's unlikely it can pick up enough Senate Republican support to get past a filibuster. Biden called H.R. 1 "landmark legislation" that will protect the right to vote and strengthen democracy.

Currently, each state sets its own laws about whether felons lose their voting rights and how they can regain them. In the District of Columbia, Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated, according to a January analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In some states, felons lose their voting rights while they are incarcerated but have them automatically restored upon release. In other states, felons regain voting rights after completing parole or probation, and sometimes after paying outstanding fines or fees. 

H.R. 1 seeks to make the rules uniform nationwide. Supporters of the bill say voting rights shouldn't depend on where you live, while critics say state elected officials should retain the right to set election laws for their own jurisdictions.

Supporting federal legislation doesn't precisely match Biden's promise to incentivize states, but it aims for the same goal: restoring voting rights for felons. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.

RELATED: No, HR 1 would not allow the Boston Marathon bomber to vote from prison

RELATED: Bernie Sanders set off a firestorm over prisoners voting, but his facts are straight


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