The ACLU of Massachusetts today announced its support for Mass POWER, a coalition organizing to restore the right to vote for people incarcerated on felony convictions in Massachusetts. The coalition is currently collecting signatures for a potential ballot initiative.
Massachusetts is the most recent state to disenfranchise incarcerated residents. In 2000, a constitutional amendment stripped incarcerated people in Massachusetts of their right to vote. More than 8,000 people are currently denied the right to vote in Massachusetts because they are imprisoned. With serious racial disparities across the criminal legal system, 58 percent of people impacted by this constitutional amendment are people of color.
“The ACLU is proud to support Mass POWER, and the effort to restore the right to vote,” said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program for the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The right to vote underpins all of our civil liberties. But people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts are excluded from the democratic process. Restoring the right to vote strengthens our democracy.”
“Universal prisoner suffrage – that being incarcerated peoples’ ability to pick people who make laws that govern structures of arrest, incarceration, and eventual release – is the only way to begin reshaping how the process of criminal justice is interpreted, which would in turn strengthen our families and build our communities,” said Derrick Washington, an incarcerated organizer with Mass POWER.
In 2018, the ACLU of Florida backed efforts to restore voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians. In a historic change, Florida voters went to the ballot and voted to amend their state constitution to restore voting rights to most people convicted of felonies once they’ve completed their full sentences. The passage of Amendment 4 marked a milestone for voting rights and curbed one of the worst forms of discrimination against people living with a record.
Mass POWER is a campaign and a coalition consisting of the Emancipation Initiative, the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, Families for Justice as Healing, the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the African American Coalition Committee at MCI-Norfolk, BLACC at Souza Baranowski, Neighbor 2 Neighbor, and other concerned citizens, incarcerated people and their loved ones committed to restoring the right to vote to people who are incarcerated. The ACLU now joins a growing list of dozens of organizations and local officials who support Mass POWER.