Grass-roots Democrats and civil rights activists are trying to register tens of thousands of newly eligible felons to vote, says the Washington Post. The presidential campaigns of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have not designated anyone to go after the group. In Alabama, Al Sharpton’s younger brother, the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, will take his “Prodigal Son” ministry into state prisons with voter-registration cards for the first time. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit there and in Tennessee to make it possible for an even larger class of felons to register. In Ohio, the NAACP will hold a voter-registration day in Cleveland this month to register “people caught up in the criminal justice system.” In California, a team will stand in front of jails on Aug. 16 to register people visiting prisoners and encourage them to take registration cards to their incarcerated friends or family members.
Florida last year made more than 115,000 felons eligible to vote. In other states, civil rights and criminal justice groups estimate there are similar numbers who have not registered. All but two states — Maine and Vermont — limit voting rights for people with felony convictions. Some felons are banned from voting until they have completed parole and paid restitution, others for life. Kentucky and Virginia have the most restrictive laws, denying all felons the right to vote, though Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine has encouraged nonviolent offenders to apply to have their rights restored. Generally, restoring voting rights has hit resistance from all directions. Not wanting to appear soft on crime, Democratic and Republican leaders have not aggressively pursued the issue.