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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

SB 619 SD2

Relating to

Senate Committee on Public Safety (PBS) - chair: Hanohano, vice chair: Aquino

Thursday, March 19, 2009, 8:30 A.M. Conference Room 309

Testifier: Suzanne Meisenzahl, LWV of Hawaii, Chair, Women's Health and Safety Committee

Click here to view SB619 SD2

The League of Women Voters supports the right of incarcerated persons to vote via absentee ballot in Hawaii’s elections. The right of every citizen to vote has been a basic League principal since its origin. Incarceration does not mean a loss of citizenship. Voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed for all.

Voting can be an opportunity for inmates to learn about candidates and issues, engage in civic education, and prepare for reintegration into society. Inmates will remain aware of the issues that are important to society so that they may participate more fully in their communities upon release.

Disenfranchisement based on criminal conviction has a disproportionate effect on communities of color. In Hawaii native Hawaiians make up 20% of the total population, yet they comprise 39% of the total disfranchised population. Approximately 6000 Hawaiians are deprived of their fundamental right to vote because they are incarcerated for felonies.

SD2 will provide rights only to those incarcerated people with two years or less on their sentence. This will add layers of unnecessary bureaucracy to the department of public safety and we would ask that consider removing this provision.

Please consider extend voting rights to incarcerated people for the entire length of their sentence.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.


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