HB 985 reads:
A person who is otherwise a qualified elector under the provisions of subsection (1) and has been convicted of a felony shall have his or her right to vote suspended upon conviction and shall not have his or her right to vote restored until three (3) years after he or she has satisfied all of the sentencing requirements of the conviction.
In the bill, any Mississippian convicted of a felony would have their voting rights restored three years after satisfying all requirements of their conviction (jail time, parole, probation etc). However, there is a stipulation, and it comes in the form of a constitutional amendment HC 31.
Snowden said most people are under the impression that anyone convicted of a felony in the state loses their right to vote, however that is not the case.
The only felons who lose their right to vote are those convicted of one of the following: murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, bigamy, armed robbery, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, larceny, receiving stolen property, robbery, timber larceny, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, statutory rape, carjacking, or larceny under lease or rental agreement.
The list of disenfranchising felonies does not include those involving drug crimes. Even convicted of those felonies, convicts still eligible to vote and in fact many of them continue to carry out affidavit voting while incarcerated in Mississippi’s Corrections system. Unfortunately, it is not a statute requirement that the Mississippi Department of Corrections nor the Secretary of State’s Office keep an exact record of the affidavit ballots coming from correctional facilities.
“I’m very much of the opinion that when you’re serving time for a convicted crime you’re supposed to be separated from society – you don’t have a right to participate in society, and certainly not in fundamental rights like voting,” said Snowden.
Snowden’s bill package would revoke the voting rights of any individual who has been convicted of a felony, regardless of severity, but would automatically restore suffrage once their ‘debt to society’ has been paid and they were completely out of the corrections system, plus three years.
These ‘companion bills’ would only be put into effect if both are passed.
Currently, any individual who has previously lost their voting rights in the state are required to go through Legislators in order to possibly get them restored through a ‘suffrage bill.’ These are often difficult to push and even more difficult to have passed.
“If you’ve paid your debt to society and are reintegrated, then you should have the right to vote regardless of the crime,” said Snowden.
The bills were referred to Apportionment and Elections Committees.