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Protesters: Let Some Felons Vote

July 19, 2003|From Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Hundreds of protesters marched to the state Capitol on Friday as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders decried Gov. Bob Riley's veto of a bill to restore voting rights for some felons.

The crowd marched several blocks to the Capitol steps carrying signs that read "Ex-Felons Are Citizens Too" and singing "We Shall Overcome." Speakers said Riley's veto on June 24 reneged on an agreement with black legislators.

The bill would have returned voting rights to former felons who have completed their sentences and paid all fines and restitution. It would not have applied to felons convicted of some crimes, including murder, rape, sodomy, child molestation and treason.

Black legislators had said the felon voting legislation and a voter-identification measure sought by Republicans were supposed to travel together through the legislative process, and both passed in June. Riley signed only the voter-identification bill, angering black legislators.

Earlier in the day, crime-victim advocates voiced support for Riley's veto. Barbi Whiting, who has been in a wheelchair since being shot by a stalker in 1980, criticized the bill and the protest.

"I don't feel like it's right," said Whiting, who is black. Under the bill Riley vetoed, her attacker would have had his voting rights restored.

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