Tallahassee, FL - A new campaign aims to restore the voting rights of former felons. The president of the NAACP is in Florida calling for the automatic restorations of civil rights. As Whitney Ray tells us, he's being joined by a famous former felon and Yale graduate who had to wait 30 years to cast a ballot.
Before his fame on the silver screen Charles Dutton was a middle school dropout, who killed a man in a street fight at 17. Dutton claimed self-defense, the courts called it manslaughter.
But Dutton turned things around. After being released from prison, he graduated from Yale and began his acting career with roles in Rudy, Alien 3 and dozens more. Despite all his success, Dutton wasn't allowed to vote because of his past conviction.
"I was released from prison in 1976. That might surprise some of you, 1976. I was only allowed to vote until 2007."
Tuesday Dutton joined the NAACP in a multi-state effort calling for the automatic restoration of civil rights. Dutton says laws that keep former felons from voting are racist and that's why he volunteered to have his face printed on billboards.
"Being denied is sacrilegious. Basically I agreed to do that because; I'm a little pissed off."
The NAACP is sponsoring the billboard campaign in Florida and several other states where former felons have to wait between two to seven years before they can ask the state to restore their rights.
"In this country we believe that everybody has the right to vote and we believe in second chances."
In 2007, Florida made civil rights restoration easier and tens of thousands had their voting rights restored. But in 2011, Governor Rick Scott and the state cabinet slowed the restoration process. Since then only 78 people have had their rights restored.
Tallahassee, FL - On Tuesday, October 2nd, the NAACP will launch a national felony disenfranchisement campaign to advocate for the restoration of voting rights for millions of citizens formerly of felonies. The campaign features billboards of formerly incarcerated citizens from across the country, including celebrity activists Judge Greg Mathis and Charles S. Dutton.
Currently, nearly six million citizens are disenfranchised to do felony disenfranchisement laws and more than 4.4 million of those citizens are no longer incarcerated. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently reinstated felony disenfranchisement restrictions after his two predecessors (Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist) worked to remove them.
Florida, Virginia, Iowa, and Kentucky are the only states that continue to disenfranchise persons convicted of felonies even after they have completed all of the terms of their sentence. There are 1.5 million disenfranchised citizens in Florida alone.
The launch follows an NAACP delegation visit to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of the visit, the delegation held a panel discussion on felony disenfranchisement and the attack on voting rights in states across the nation.