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Mississippi Votes Statement on Felony Disenfranchisement Hearing Held by Mississippi Legislature

Mississippi Votes Team
Mississippi VotesOctober 28, 2021

JACKSON, Miss. – Today, House Judiciary Committee B in the Mississippi Legislature held a hearing on the status of felony disenfranchisement in the state of Mississippi and the next steps the legislature must take in addressing the issue.

The committee heard from Neal Ubriani, Research Director for the Center of Secure and Modern Elections; Paloma Wu, Deputy Director of Impact Legislation; Gayle Carpenter-Sanders, Executive Director of the MS Volunteer Lawyers Project; Ryan Burns, Former District Attorney; and personal testimonies from Roy Harness and Dennis Hopkins.

In response, Hannah Williams, Voting Rights Project Coordinator at Mississippi Votes, issued the following statement:

“Since its inception, the expansion of voting rights by modernizing Mississippi’s voting processes and restoring the franchise has been critical to the work of Mississippi Votes, an organization of intergenerational synergy centering and led by young people invested in the progression of Mississippi. In the last three years we’ve worked with voting experts across the country to develop research around Mississippi’s rights restoration process to create a more just and equitable process that eliminates the legacy of Jim Crow once and for all.

“To regain voting rights in Mississippi now, a person convicted of a disenfranchising crime must win permission from two-thirds of the state House and Senate. In 2021, the Mississippi Senate killed 19 House bills to restore voting rights to Mississippians.

“Hopkins, who was convicted of grand larceny in 1998, was named as a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against then Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Since leaving prison, Hopkins and his wife have had five kids and fostered four others. He’s started his own towing business and has worked as a volunteer firefighter, only leaving when he was elected fire chief of his local department. At today’s hearing, Hopkins stressed that he remains wondering, ‘Was he sentenced to a four-year sentence or life?’ For far too many Mississippians, this is their reality, and too many communities are being torn apart by this outdated system.

“We are pleased and grateful to see the Legislature take this critical first step toward restoring voting rights to Mississippians convicted of the state’s 23 disenfranchising crimes. It is a long overdue conversation that needs to be had. Chairman Nick Bain stated his commitment to addressing the inconsistencies in the law, but we now await results, and stand ready to work side by side with our legislators to achieve real progress for Mississippi.

“Rights restoration means ending permanent felony disenfranchisement rather than revising the list of crimes triggering it. Thanks to the many voting rights champions and partners across the state for being diligent in this fight, we are hopeful in the future.”

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PRESS CONTACT: Seth Nieman | 601-341-6234 | seth@msvotes.org

Cultivating a transformative culture of civic engagement across the state of Mississippi