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May 1, 2019

Rep. Pressley’s Testimony in Opposition to the Criminal Injustice System

WASHINGTON  – Today, at a Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee Hearing on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties entitled Protecting the Right to Vote: Best and Worst Practices, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) delivered testimony  in support of re-enfranchising millions of Americans who have been stripped of their right to vote by a criminal legal system that is fundamentally unjust.


Throughout her testimony, Congresswoman Pressley reaffirmed the need to re-enfranchise people who are unable to access the ballot box on account of a discriminatory and ineffective criminal injustice system.


See below for an excerpt of Congresswoman Pressley’s testimony:


The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans. The most basic right to vote belongs to all Americans.


It belongs to the person who fell ill to the crack/cocaine and opioid crisis, who instead of compassion, was sent to prison only to return home unable to fully participate in our society.


It belongs to the incarcerated mother who is the primary caretaker of her daughter who has arbitrarily been stripped of access to the ballot box and therefore has no say in her child’s future.


It belongs to the 18-year-old imprisoned for marijuana possession who is warehoused 14-hours away from his family and the community he grew up in and a broken system that counts the young man’s body in the census where he is imprisoned, yet does not count his vote. 


It belongs to the more than 6 million Americans who are caught in a criminal-legal system that is fundamentally unjust – a system that disproportionately targets the addicted, the disabled, and the poor.


According to a report by the Center for American Progress last year, more than half a million people are held in local jails across the country. These individuals have yet to be convicted of any crime but remain in jail because they simply cannot afford bail …


Before 2001, a prison sentence in Massachusetts didn’t affect whether someone in Massachusetts could vote, so felony disenfranchisement is a recent phenomenon in the Commonwealth….


One in 13 Black Americans of voting age – or 2.2 million people – are disenfranchised nationally, and are more than four times as likely to lose their voting rights than any other group.