The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of democracy and a core constitutional right that should never be taken away. However, Connecticut law deprives people of the right to vote when they are in the custody of the Department of Corrections and convicted of a felony. HB 5702 would restore the right to vote to people who are incarcerated on a felony conviction.
On March 6, 2023 ACLU of Connecticut's Senior Policy Organizer, Anderson Curtis testified in support of HB 5702 during it's public hearing with the Government Administration and Elections Committee. The following is his testimony.
Good day Senator Flexer, Representative Blumenthal, ranking members Senator Sampson and Representative Mastrofrancesco and distinguished members of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. My name is Anderson Curtis. I am the Senior Policy Organizer at the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. I testify today strongly supporting House Bill 5702: An Act Allowing Incarcerated Citizens to Vote.
The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of democracy and a core constitutional right of the people. Historically, People of Color are disenfranchised from exercising the right to vote.
Currently, Connecticut law deprives people of the right to vote when they are in the custody of the Department of Corrections and convicted of a felony. HB 5702 would restore the right to vote to people who are incarcerated on a felony conviction. As a person, who has had my voting rights restored and exercises my right to vote I believe enfranchisement is an integral way for all Americans to participate in the democracy that governs them.
The ACLU-CT has submitted written testimony, but I wanted to take a moment to describe my own experience registering people on parole to vote which recently enfranchised people on parole the right to vote.
As a policy organizer I have worked multiple voter registration events. At a voter registration event on 10/18/2022, I met Ron Hall. Ron had been recently released on parole after serving 40 years. Ron came to the event seeking to register to vote for the first time in his life of 60 or so years. Ron shared his experience surviving 40 years of incarceration, learning he had right to register to vote, learning how to register to vote, learning how to send a picture of him and I to his sister. And yes, here is the day Ron voted. The joy on his face is priceless.
The impact of Ron Hall registering to vote in the state of Connecticut after serving 40 years of incarceration and voting is an impact that cannot be measured.
I have a picture here today of the day Ron voted for the 1st time in 40 years. Unfortunately, Ron is no longer with us, but I carry his story in my testimony. I carry his truth in my testimony, and I believe his truth is not unique
By restoring a person’s right to vote when they are incarcerated Connecticut would no longer deprive people of their fundamental civic right and allow them to have a voice in the decisions and policies made by government that impacts their lives. Restoring the right to vote not only expands and strengthens our democracy, but it also helps to maintain a person’s connection to their community and helps them reintegrate into their community when they are released.
It is also important to note that voter disenfranchisement of people who are incarcerated disproportionately impacts black and brown people, who make up over 70% of the state’s incarcerated population. Also, over half of the people who are incarcerated in Connecticut are parents. Restoring their right to vote would allow them to have input on decisions that shape the lives of their children and their communities.
Two of our neighboring states, Maine and Vermont have consistently managed to facilitate voting from within their prisons. Last year Washington D.C. passed a law restoring the right to vote for people incarcerated for a felony conviction.
HB 5702 is an important step to help more people more fully participate in our democracy, so I strongly urge the committee to support this bill and thank you for listening to my testimony.