A convicted felon living in Kentucky or Virginia has no voting rights, but one living in Maine or Vermont has full voting rights, even in prison.
Throughout the United States, a patchwork of different laws allows voting rights at discharge from prison or after completion of parole, with some restrictions and exceptions.
Rev. H. David Schuringa, a Christian Reformed minister and president of Crossroad Bible Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., is trying to change that.
On December 11, he testified on Capitol Hill in support of the Democracy Restoration Act, S.1516 and H.R.3335, legislation that would uniformly restore voting rights in federal elections to an estimated 4 million people who are out of prison.
“This issue is terribly important,” Schuringa said. “The best way we can be a voice for the voiceless in society is to speak out and give them their own voice—the vote.”
Schuringa is optimistic that the legislation will pass in the current session of the U.S. congress, but does expect resistance from some who consider this a states’ rights issue.
The mission of Crossroad Bible Institute, a ministry supported by many CRC members, is to provide people in prison with faith-based reentry education while guiding them into reentry agencies upon their release. They also provide churches with education on criminal and restorative justice issues.