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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: February 19, 2021 11:22 AM
From: Representative Brian Sims
To: All House members
Subject: Supporting the Voting Rights of Formerly Incarcerated Pennsylvanians
Pennsylvania is one of 18 states where people who were formerly incarcerated for felonies regain the right to vote upon release. Unfortunately, because of confusion about the laws of different states and a lack of education, many people do not know that their voting rights are restored once they serve their sentence and re-enter society.

It is difficult to assess the extent of de facto voter disenfranchisement because of limited data, but existing evidence suggests that voting levels among formerly convicted felons are lower than they are for the general population. The consequences are not limited to election results - disenfranchising voters may create a ripple effect leading to lower levels of political and civic engagement on the community level. This package of bills includes proposals that aim to mitigate the dual problems of insufficient civic education leading to de facto disenfranchisement and a lack of data that impedes our ability to create policies to help eligible voters exercise their right to vote.

Document #1

Introduced as HB1336

Description: The first bill would help ensure that eligible voters who were formerly incarcerated know their rights by informing them of the relevant election laws upon their release. Other states that have successfully implemented similar policies and have experienced an increase in civic engagement from ex-felons. 

Document #2

Introduced as HB1337

Description: The second bill would require the collection of data about the voting habits of formerly incarcerated Pennsylvanians, including the percentage of them who vote in each election, voting frequency prior to and after incarceration, and demographic information.

Document #3

Introduced as HR97

Description: The final resolution would direct the Joint State Government Commission to study voting habits of formerly incarcerated voters, their knowledge about Pennsylvania’s election laws, any information or misinformation they encountered about their right to vote, barriers to civic engagement, and other relevant issues. The commission would also provide recommendations for policy changes to improve voter engagement and education.

Creating a database to continually track voting patterns, identifying immediate barriers that formerly incarcerated Pennsylvanians face, and informing people about their voting rights upon
release from a carceral setting will help increase civic engagement and inform our policies and election laws.  

Please join me in cosponsoring this important package of legislation.