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Senate passes bill to restore voting rights for felons following their time in prison
By Mark Fowser

The Del. State Senate Tuesday passed a bill to allow felons who've completed their prison sentences to vote
A bill to restore the right to vote to most convicted felons in Delaware passes in the State Senate.

An amendment sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini, R- Dover, would have required a felon to pay full restitution to their victims, or their liabilities to the state Victims Compensation Fund.

That amendment was defeated in a party line vote, and Bonini says the vote Tuesday "puts felons before victims, plain and simple."

Common Cause of Delaware, however, says passage of the bill "affirms the state's commitment to provide a second chance to those who have served their time in prison after breaking our laws."

Common Cause Program Director Claire Snyder-Hall, in a statement, says fees and fines associated with felony crimes will not be forgiven, but restoration of the right to vote will not be delayed because they may not be able to pay.

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Common Cause of Delaware released this statement Tuesday:

With passage of SB 242, restoring the voting rights of most people with felony convictions who’ve completed their prison terms, the Delaware State Senate has taken an important step to strengthen justice and democracy in our state, Common Cause Delaware said today.

“This legislation affirms the state’s commitment to provide a second chance to those who’ve served their time in prison after breaking our laws,” said Claire Snyder-Hall, program director for Common Cause Delaware. “We can’t reasonably expect them to become productive citizens unless we’re willing to extend to them all the rights that go with citizenship, including the right to vote.

“We salute the lawmakers who passed this bill and we’re pleased that Gov. Jack Markell had already signaled his support,” Snyder-Hall added.

SB 242 would restore voting rights to most people with felony convictions who’ve completed their prison sentences but have not yet fully paid fines and fees associated with their cases. The fees and fines will not be forgiven, but restoration of their right to vote will not be delayed because they are poor.

Snyder-Hall said numerous studies have affirmed that restoration of voting rights helps those returning from prison reintegrate into the community and reduces recidivism. Requiring the payment of all fines and fees and before granting returning citizens the right to vote erects an economic barrier that falls heavily on the poor and is the functional equivalent of a poll tax, she argued.

SB 242 has the strong support of State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove and the Department of Corrections. Law enforcement, parole boards, and religious organizations, along with a growing group of advocates, also support restoring the right to vote upon completion of a prison sentence.

“It’s time for Delaware to take this step, too,” Snyder-Hall said.

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The Delaware State Senate Republican Caucus released this statement Tuesday:

Dover, DE -- State Senator Colin Bonini reacted strongly today in the wake of a vote in the Senate that granted felons the right to vote before they paid restitution to their victims or their liabilities to the state’s Victims Compensation Fund.



“This is just wrong. They put felons before victims, plain and simple,” said Senator Bonini. “I wish I could say something else, but there’s no other way to say it. Delawareans deserve better. We should live in a state where felons must make their victims whole before they are given the privilege of participating in elections. These are not Delaware values.”



Senator Bonini offered an amendment to today’s bill that would require felons to pay full restitution to their victims before being having their right to vote restored. The amendment was defeated in a party line vote, with none of the 12 Democratic Senators voting in favor.



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