The Georgia Justice Project is committed to reducing the barriers to opportunity that stem from a criminal record in Georgia. As of 2010, there are more than 275,000 people serving a sentence for a felony conviction in Georgia. Georgia’s Constitution denies the right to vote to those convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude until their sentences are complete, including the payment of fines and fees (Ga. Const. Art. II, Section 1, Paragraph 3). As a result, Georgia has the 10th highest percentage of disenfranchised voters based on a criminal record in the country.
Some states permanently deny the right to vote to people with felony convictions, and others have onerous requirements for restoration. In Georgia, the right to vote is automatically restored upon sentence completion. Once individuals have completed their sentences, they are eligible to vote and should be able to register. Unfortunately, however, there are real challenges for people with felony convictions.
Frequently the employees at local county registration offices are misinformed about the law or are unable determine voter eligibility when an applicant has felony conviction. There is also a lack of clarity about what is and who has the burden to prove sentence completion, and the potential voter is unable to or discouraged from voting. In addition, over the years Georgia Justice Project has encountered clients who were not serving a felony sentence, but also faced significant obstacles or were outright denied the ability to register.
In order to start accurately describing and addressing voter disenfranchisement and its effects on the lives of the people with whom we work, GJP will collect voter registration information (VRI) from 300 potential, current and former clients as well as 200 attendees of our education and outreach events.