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Connecticut Bill Would Allow Paroled Felons To Vote

Daniel Morrison
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/danielmorrison/291582376

Connecticut is the only state in New England that doesn't permit felons on parole to vote. New legislation would change that.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill proposed the bill.

"This legislation codifies my firmly held belief that those who have paid their debt to society deserve to have their voting rights restored immediately upon release from incarceration," she said.

In 2019, Merrill proposed a bill with a similar provision. The Connecticut House of Representives passed it, but it didn't come up for a vote in the Senate.

Merrill's office said the change would impact thousands of people on parole.

One of them is James Jeter. He's the co-director of a group working to get the bill passed.

Jeter went to prison at the age of 17, and served 20 years for robbery and murder. He got out in 2016 and has more than a decade left on his parole.

"Being able to have a say in policy and the make-up of our state, our cities, it gives you ownership," he said. "Being locked out of it, it isolates you. There are things happening that you have no say in. You pay taxes, yet you have no say."

If Connecticut passes the bill, it would join Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, where felons regain the right to vote after they are released.

Felons in Maine and Vermont never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated. 

Copyright 2020 New England Public Media

Before joining New England Public Radio, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education, and politics. Working with correspondent Morley Safer, he reported from locations across the United States as well as from India, Costa Rica, Italy, and Iraq.