New Hampshire bill aims to allow jailed felons to vote

New Hampshire prisoners could soon get the right to vote under a proposed measure that is heading for a full vote by the state Legislature.

At present, convicted felons in New Hampshire are eligible to vote only after their release from prison. If approved, the bill would put New Hampshire in the ranks of Maine and Vermont, the only two states where even convicted felons have the right to vote

Rep. Judith Spang (D-Durham), who co-sponsored the bill, said, “I don’t see any reason why people who are incarcerated should be deprived of their rights of citizenship.”

But the measure, sponsored by four Democrats, faces an uphill task after being deemed unfeasible by the House Elections Law Committee last Thursday.

The Department of Corrections didn’t take any position on the measure, but spokesperson Jeff Lyons has raised concerns. Lyons raised concerns about the bill’s impact on nearly one hundred New Hampshire convicted felons incarcerated out of the state and added that it could burden corrections staff.

Elections Law Committee chairperson Kathleen Hoezel, a Republican from Hudson, voted 15-3 against the bill, saying it is “inexpedient to legislate.” Hoezel said the bill would likely die in the house.

While Maine and Vermont allow convicted felons to vote and run for office even while behind bars, the state of Florida and Iowa bar convicted felons from voting for life.

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