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Georgia stops voting by felons using broadest reading of law

felon voting rights.jpg
Posted at 11:19 AM, May 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-28 11:19:45-04

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people with felony convictions aren't allowed to vote in Georgia under a vaguely worded law that election officials interpret in the strictest possible manner.

Georgia prohibits voting by anyone convicted of a "felony involving moral turpitude." That's a legal phrase rooted in the state's 1877 constitution adopted after the Civil War as whites made new laws to keep blacks from the ballot box.

Georgia lawmakers have never defined which felonies are crimes of moral turpitude. For decades, election officials have simply removed from voting rolls all felons serving time in prison, on parole or on probation.

A spokeswoman for Georgia's secretary of state says courts have ruled that all felonies involve moral turpitude. Attorney Sean J. Young of the ACLU of Georgia says those cases don't address voting rights.