Anyone convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude cannot vote until they complete their sentence and pay all associated fees and fines.The Secretary of State's Office interprets the above passage to refer to all felonies. As a result, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, over 280,000 felons in Georgia are "disenfranchised." Nancy Abudu, staff counsel for the ACLU Voting Rights Project also notes: "Given disparities in race and class, the population it affects the most is also the population that is also disparately impacted by criminal justice." The premise is based on the estimate that about half of the 280,000 felons are African-American.
So, the ACLU and other groups are calling on the State to produce a more specific list of felonies which are meant to be encompassed by the constitutional language. After all, the language does seem to single out certain types of felonies, not all felonies. The Florida-Times Union notes:
Lawmakers in other states, such as Alabama and Alaska, have defined which specific offenses are crimes of moral turpitude ... Courts have defined the term moral turpitude as acts of baseness, vileness or depravity in a person's duty to society. But the term has found a perplexing place in the political world, and its application to crimes has stirred debate in a number of states ... In Georgia, a solid definition for crimes of moral turpitude has eluded the Attorney General's Office for decades.In 1983, the State Attorney General admitted that the State could not come up with a specific working definition of "moral turpitude" and guessed that any such definition might be linked to current (and constantly changing) public opinion. He then suggested that the Board broadly define "moral turpitude" and consider all felonies crimes of moral turpitude for purposes of granting clemency and restoring civil rights to felons. The result?
The state automatically restores voting rights for felons after they complete their sentence, parole or probation. Felons must apply to restore other rights, such as holding political office and owning a firearm. Nearly 8,100 convicts were discharged from parole in fiscal 2007, though some may have been moved to probation and did not have their voting rights automatically restored, said Scheree Lipscomb, spokeswoman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The board granted pardons for 372 inmates and restored the civil rights of 211 convicts.See story here.