JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Democratic group crucial to Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign has paid felons -- some convicted of sex offenses, assault and burglary -- to conduct door-to-door voter registration drives in at least three election swing states.
America Coming Together, contending that convicted criminals deserve a second chance in society, employs felons as voter canvassers in major metropolitan areas in Missouri, Florida, Ohio and perhaps in other states among the 17 it is targeting in its drive. Some of the felons lived in halfway houses, and at least four returned to prison.
Canvassers ask residents which issues are important to them and, if residents are not registered, they can sign them up as voters. They gather telephone numbers and other personal information, such as driver's license numbers or partial Social Security numbers, depending on what a state requires for voter registration.
Felons on probation or parole are ineligible to vote in many states. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, which represents election officials, said he was unaware of any laws against felons registering other people to vote.