Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Formerly incarcerated people across the country are using their past connections with the criminal justice system to lead the national movement to restore voting rights for the disenfranchised.

Between the lines: Laws stripping voting rights from people with past criminal convictions vary widely from state to state. Some revoke rights permanently and require a petition for restoration, while others restore the right after release. But an estimated six million formerly incarcerated people nationwide cannot vote — an amount experts say has the potential to change election outcomes in key states with strict felon-voting policies.

"Those who are closer to the problem are a big part of the solution."
— Checo Yancy, an organizer with the Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), told Axios.

The backdrop: Louisiana's governor is expected to sign a measure that Yancy, an organizer with the Voice of the Experienced (VOTE,) and others had lobbied for, that will allow those on probation or parole to vote, once they've been out of prison for five years.

What they're saying: Former felons-turned reform advocates say voting restoration would ease transition into society and allow them to overcome the stigma of incarceration.

  • "This is a big reward. We've been fighting it in court," said Yancy, who has been out of prison for for 15 years and whose parole ends in 2056.

The other side: Meanwhile, many Republicans and conservative groups, who fiercely oppose any changes to felon voting laws, have long argued that people must first prove that they’ve been rehabilitated.

State of play:
  • Florida: A November ballot measure led by Desmond Meade, a former felon and leader of a local group, would automatically restore voting rights to felons once they complete their prison sentences.
  • Mississippi: There are two pending federal suits seeking automatic restoration after a person completes a sentence for a disenfranchising crime. The state’s constitution currently outlines several crimes that disqualify a person from voting, and only gubernatorial pardon or legislative action can restore the right to vote.
  • New Jersey: State lawmakers are weighing a measure that would allow people in prison to vote. Only Maine and Vermont currently do so.

Meanwhile, the movement has reaped recent successes: Just this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) on Tuesday issued the first set of conditional pardons restoring the right to vote to more than 24,086 parolees.

  • Last year, thousands of Alabama felons were added to voter rolls after the state Legislature passed a law that clarified under which crimes convicted felons are barred from voting.
  • In 2016, then Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored voting rights to more than 155,000 convicted felons who had completed their sentences.

Go deeper: The long voting rights fight for Florida's ex-felons

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests
  2. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases
  3. Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  4. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.

In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.

4 hours ago - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing" and the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus for the achievement, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China