U.S Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Welch Present Legislation to Grant Prisoners The Right to Vote

ayanna pressley
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 23: Ayanna Pressley attends the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards on September 23, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference)

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation that would allow people convicted of a felony to vote in federal elections, a proposal that if enacted could restore the voting rights of millions of people in U.S. elections.

On December 6, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont submitted the legislation, named the Inclusive Democracy Act, which would guarantee the right to vote in federal elections for all citizens regardless of their criminal record.

“As someone whose family has been personally impacted by mass incarceration, I know how important it is for people to maintain ties to their community, including by voting,” Pressley said.

Last year, approximately 4.6 million people were unable to vote due to a felony conviction, according to a study by the Sentencing Project, a nonpartisan research group. The same study found that Black and Hispanic citizens are disproportionately likely to be disenfranchised due to felony convictions.

“With Republicans and the Supreme Court stopping at nothing to undermine voting rights and exclude Black and brown folks from participating in our democracy, we must protect and expand access to the ballot box — including for incarcerated citizens,” Pressley said.

Pressley also stated that legislation was necessary due to policies and court rulings that “continue to disenfranchise voters from all walks of life — including by gutting the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, cuts to early voting, and more.” Welch called the bill necessary due to “antiquated state felony disenfranchisement laws.”