Felony disenfranchisement – often a holdover from Jim Crow-era laws like poll taxes and ballot box literacy tests – affects about 5.3 million former and current felons in the U.S., says the New York Times. Voter registration and advocacy groups say recent overhauls of these Reconstruction-era laws have loosened enough in some states to make it worth the time to lobby statehouses for easier voting restoration processes, and to try to track down former felons in indigent neighborhoods.
A loose-knit group of national organizations working to restore voting rights includes the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Brennan Center for Justice. The Sentencing Project and the American Civil Liberties Union said they had given briefings to officials for Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign about how to register former felons. The Obama campaign has been reluctant to acknowledge any concerted effort. No felony voter registration organization could recall hearing from Senator John McCain's campaign.