Press Release

Welch, Pressley Unveil ‘Inclusive Democracy Act’ to Guarantee Right to Vote for Incarcerated Citizens

Dec 6, 2023

Approximately 4.6 million citizens are denied voting rights in Federal elections due to criminal convictions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On December 6, Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) unveiled the Inclusive Democracy Act, brand new, first-of-its-kind legislation that would end felony disenfranchisement in Federal elections, including for the nearly 2 million individuals currently incarcerated in the United States. An estimated 4.6 million citizens are denied voting rights because of a criminal conviction, with Black Americans disproportionately affected, accounting for one-third of total disenfranchised citizens.

“Our democracy is at its strongest when everyone can take part in it. Yet millions of Americans are denied their right to engage in our democratic process as a result of antiquated state felony disenfranchisement laws that disproportionately impact Black Americans and women. These Jim Crow-era laws have no place in modern America,” said Sen. Welch. “Today I was proud to introduce the Inclusive Democracy Act with Congresswoman Pressley, a step forward in restoring the voices of millions of disenfranchised voters who have been systemically robbed of their right to participate in our democratic process. I will continue to vigorously oppose and condemn efforts to exclude marginalized communities from participating in our democracy and work to strengthen the Voting Rights Act to ensure everyone can equitably participate in our democracy.”

“Too often, citizens behind the wall and those with a record are wrongfully stripped of their sacred right to vote and denied the opportunity to participate in our democracy. With Republicans and the Supreme Court stopping at nothing to undermine voting rights and exclude Black and brown folks from participating in our democracy, we must protect and expand access to the ballot box – including for incarcerated citizens,” said Rep. Pressley. “As someone whose family has been personally impacted by mass incarceration, I’m proud to partner with Senator Welch on the Inclusive Democracy Act to ensure everyone can make their voice heard in our democracy. Momentum is growing in states across the country and Congress must follow suit by swiftly passing this crucial legislation.”

Roughly 4.6 million U.S. citizens—or 2% of the entire U.S. voting population—have been stripped of their voting rights as a result of state felony disenfranchisement laws. Of those felons disenfranchised, over one-third are Black, despite representing less than 15% of the entire U.S. population. Nearly 1 million women are disenfranchised, accounting for over one-fifth of total disenfranchised citizens. Vermont is one of only two states in the nation, besides Maine, that grants persons in prison the right to vote.

Read the full text of the bill here.

Watch a recording of the press conference here.