Dec 02, 2023

ACLU launches effort to inform Kansans with felony records of their voting rights

Posted Dec 02, 2023 7:00 PM
Thousands of Kansans with felony records are eligible to vote, according to the ACLU of Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Thousands of Kansans with felony records are eligible to vote, according to the ACLU of Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

By RACHEL MIPRO Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — A leading Kansas civil rights organization says an estimated 30,000 people living in the state should be informed they have the right to vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas launched a campaign to reach out to Kansans with felony records and encourage them to register to vote and to participate in local, state and national elections.

“Many Kansans don’t know their voting rights have been restored after they complete probation or parole, but the law is clear that they have the right to vote,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas. “We invite everyone in our state, including and especially election and corrections officials, to join us in this work to inform our fellow Kansans when they are eligible and how to register to vote.”

Kansas has more stringent voting restrictions than about half of the country, the ACLU said. In more than 20 states, including Indiana and Ohio, voting rights are only restricted while the person is incarcerated. In Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C., people never lose the right to vote, even while in prison or jail. 

In Kansan, individuals who complete their sentences and fulfill their incarceration and supervised release requirements — which can sometimes be a long and arduous process— have voting rights restored under statute.

Eliza Barr, executive director of Reaching Out from Within, an organization focused on rehabilitation and healing for people involved in the corrections system, said felony disenfranchisement laws are rooted in racism.  In a statement announcing the voting rights campaign in Kansas, Barr said the justice system disproportionately targets Black people, people of color and poorer citizens. 

“Withholding access to vote – even if that’s just through voter confusion or lack of clarity – still prolongs punishment against those who have already served their sentence,” Barr said. “When Kansans have had their voting rights restored, we should be enthusiastically empowering them to register to vote if they wish to.”

“Anything short of proactively including system-impacted Kansans in the voting process contradicts what it means for us to be the Free State,” Barr said. 

The ACLU’s current goal is to register a minimum of 2,400 eligible voters in Kansas.