Voting rights restored to ex-felons in NM, activity in MD
Voting Rights Update
Published March 23rd 2001

Legislation update : bills on proportional systems in US House and state legislatures  
American Prospect debate on redistricting                              
There is a great deal going on in the field of voting rights, as many of you know quite well from direct involvement in debates and struggles involving the Census, redistricting, post-Florida electoral reform and more. I wanted to pass on some good news and alert you to other developments.

* Movement to restore voting rights to ex-felons gains steam Tim Canova of the University of New Mexico Law School sent me the following: On March 15th, New Mexico overnor Gary Johnson signed into law Senate Bill 204 to restore the right to vote to citizens convicted of a felony who have satisfied all the conditions of their sentences. The bill had been introduced by Senator Richard M. Romero, the President Pro Tem of the Senate. Dating back to 1911, New Mexico was one of only nine states that had denied voting rights to ex-felons for the rest of their lives. Such felony disenfranchisement laws were often adopted to keep black citizens from voting. More than 13 percent of black men (some 1.4 million nationwide) -- and in some states nearly 40 percent of black men -- are disenfranchised as a result of such laws.  The Sante Fe New Mexican reported that as many as 45 percent of black males in the state could not vote -- "the highest ratio in the country." Hispanics and Native Americans were also disproportionately harmed by felony disenfranchisement in New Mexico. For instance, while Hispanics make up about 40 percent of the state's population, they constitute 60 percent of the state's prisoners.  One prominent study concluded that as of Dec. 31, 1998 more than 54,000 New Mexicans (or 5.52 percent of the state's voting age population) were deprived of the right to vote as a result of the old law.  In Florida, nearly 9 percent of the voting age population are permanently barred from voting as a result of that state's felony disenfranchisement law. (Note: yesterday the Maryland housed passed a similar bill. It now goes to the senate, where it faces resistance and needs citizen pressure.)

* CVD rundown of alternative voting systems legislation Expect more federal and state bills soon, but already there is an important range of legislation about proportional voting systems and instant runoff voting. The following report comes from our web site at: . Pending Legislation and Ballot Measures Updated March 22, 2001.

* American Prospect debate on "Should Democrats Support Majority Minority Districts?" See