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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Working to help Alabama residents understand, restore voting rights

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Wednesday, February 7, 2024   

As people in Alabama mobilize for the 2024 General Election, one group wants to make it easier for those with felony records to understand their voting rights and get them reinstated, if needed.

The Campaign Legal Center's "Restore Your Vote" campaign includes an online Restore Your Vote tool. It is estimated about 328,000 Alabama residents have been disenfranchised because of felony convictions.

Blair Bowie, Restore Your Vote campaign director for the Campaign Legal Center, said voting laws are complex and differ from state to state, and many people do not know they could restore their rights.

"There's a handful of states, including Alabama, that have more requirements, including payment of any sort of legal debt," Bowie explained. "Even having to get documentary proof that somebody meets all of the eligibility requirements, which in Alabama is called a 'Certificate of Eligibility to Register to Vote.'"

Nationally, it is estimated up to 18 million people with felony records still have the right to vote. Bowie noted the Restore Your Vote tool asks questions related to felony convictions and sentence completion, based on the state where the person resides. It can provide information on whether their right to vote has been restored or when it can happen, and what steps they can take to proactively regain rights.

Bowie pointed out the Campaign Legal Center also offers resources and training for groups doing voter registration and canvassing. She emphasized they want to avoid people being prosecuted for making an honest mistake while attempting to vote, due to uncertainty about their voting rights, or receiving the wrong information about their voting status at the polls.

"It's really important that folks know whether or not somebody has lost the right to vote or gotten that right restored," Bowie asserted. "In Alabama, actually, about half of people with felony convictions never lost the right to vote to begin with, because only certain felony convictions take away the right to vote."

She added it is one reason it is important for people to check their voting registration status long before Election Day. For people who run into issues, Bowie recommended contacting the ACLU's Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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