Boston City Council Signals Support For Giving Incarcerated Felons Right To Vote

Printed from:

Boston city councilors have signaled their support for a ballot initiative allowing prisoners convicted of felonies in Massachusetts to vote.

Roughly 8,000 prisoners in Massachusetts are prohibited from voting due to a 2000 ballot initiative that amended the Massachusetts Constitution.

Boston city councilors backed restoring that ability during a meeting on Wednesday, May 10, calling for a ballot initiative “relative to voting rights” in a resolution.

“The right to vote is something that is fundamental to the foundation of our country, and it is something that should be cherished and protected in our state constitution,” councilor Kendra Lara said during the meeting.

“Upholding democracy, increasing civic participation, and ensuring that returning citizens can still play a role in their communities is crucial to a healthy and functioning democracy,” she continued.

Several of the councilors spoke about the importance of representation in a democracy.

“As someone who only won by one vote,” councilor Julia Mejia, “I believe that representation matters, and I think that oftentimes, we sit in positions of power and have really very little proximity to those who we’re here to represent.”

Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said the move “would re-enfranchise the right for people to vote. I think it’s incredibly important that we treat that as a sacred right that everybody has and not something that can be taken from any one individual.”

NewBostonPost contacted all three city councilors on Thursday, May 11 by email. They could not immediately be reached.

The resolution backs the proposals of state Senators Liz Miranda, Adam Gomez, and Lindsay Sabadosa, and state Representative Erika Uyterhoeven, who have, in their respective chambers, filed legislative amendments to restore the ability of incarcerated felons to vote.

Supporters in the legislature frame the issue in racial terms.

“As someone who lives in a community that is over-incarcerated and who has had familial experience with all my brothers and my father being incarcerated, I’m not only doing it for the folks behind the wall, I’m furthering justice in memory of and in support of the people I love who did not have access to the ballot over the last 20 years,” Miranda said during a meeting of the legislature’s Election Laws Committee on Wednesday, April 22, according to WBUR.

Amending the Massachusetts Constitution requires through two steps. First, the initiative must be approved by the Massachusetts General Court, which comprises both branches of the state legislature. If the initiative is supported by at least 25 percent of state legislatures (meaning at least 50 out of the 200 state legislators) during two legislative sessions in a row, it is put on the statewide ballot for voters to consider.

The 2000 referendum on the state constitutional amendment to limit the ability of incarcerated felons to vote passed with a little more than 60 percent of the vote.

The initiative received overwhelming support in both joint sessions of the General Court in 1998 and 2000.

On July 29, 1998, there were 155 yeas to 34 nays. On June 28, 2000, there were 144 yeas to 45 nays.


New to NewBostonPost?  Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts.  But you’ve found it.  Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months.  And join the real revolution.