Senate Rejects Ex - Felon Measure in Election Reform

February 14, 2002
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate defeated proposed amendments on Thursday to election-reform legislation that would have returned voting rights to millions of convicted felons and provided paid leaves for federal employees to serve as election-day poll workers. The action came as the Senate moved toward anticipated passage of bipartisan legislation that would implement one of the biggest overhauls ever of the nation's election system. Designed to avoid a repeat of the disputed 2000 White House election, the measure would establish national election standards, such as requiring states to allow voters to verify ballots and correct errors before the votes are counted. Lawmakers had hoped to vote on passage as early as Thursday. But because of a crush of proposed amendments that they still had to sift through they put off that action until after they return on Feb. 25 from a weeklong President's Day recess.

The $3.4 billion Senate bill would provide federal grants to help states meet new election standards. In addition, the bill would create a national commission to administer the funds and recommend improvements. On Thursday, the Senate rejected a half dozen amendments to the bill, including one by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee. Lieberman's measure would have provided administrative leaves for federal employees to serve as election poll workers. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, chief Republican sponsor of the election-reform bill, objected, noting most federal workers, particularly unionized ones, are Democrats. McConnell said the Lieberman amendment would grant these workers ``a paid holiday to go out and work for Democrats.'' The amendment was defeated on a largely party line vote of 46-49. The Senate also rejected, 31-63, a proposed amendment that would have enabled convicted felons to get back their right to vote after they have served their sentences and completed probation and parole. Currently, an individual loses his or her right to vote upon a felony conviction. States offer various ways for the right to be restored but it is virtually impossible in many of them, critics say. Sens. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania, Republican, offered the ex-felon amendment, saying they wanted to ``restore fairness.'' They also argued permitting convicted felons to again vote would help in the rehabilitation process. They said there are an estimated 3.9 million people in the United States, one in 50 adults, who cannot vote as a result of felony convictions. But most of their Senate colleagues, many of whom are up for re-election this year, were unswayed and voted no on the amendment. Once the Senate approves the election-reform bill, the legislation will be sent to a House-Senate conference to work out differences with a similar House-passed measure. Proponents hope to send a final measure to President Bush to sign into law within the next few months.

(Rollcall Vote No. 31 Leg. )

February 14, 2002  12:18PM

VOTE TITLE: Reid Amdt. No. 2879

BILL NO.: S. 565
AMENDMENT NO.: S.Amdt.2879

RESULT: Amendment Rejected

                              YEAS --- 31
  Akaka                   Feingold                Lincoln
  Bingaman                Hollings                Mikulski
  Boxer                   Inouye                  Miller
  Cantwell                Jeffords                Murray
  Cleland                 Kennedy                 Reed
  Clinton                 Kerry                   Reid
  Corzine                 Kohl                    Santorum
  Daschle                 Leahy                   Sarbanes
  Dayton                  Levin                   Specter
  DeWine                  Lieberman               Wellstone

                              NAYS --- 63
  Allard                  Edwards                 McCain
  Allen                   Ensign                  McConnell
  Baucus                  Enzi                    Murkowski
  Bayh                    Feinstein               Nelson (FL)
  Biden                   Fitzgerald              Nelson (NE)
  Bond                    Frist                   Nickles
  Breaux                  Graham                  Roberts
  Brownback               Gramm                   Rockefeller
  Bunning                 Grassley                Schumer
  Burns                   Gregg                   Sessions
  Byrd                    Hagel                   Shelby
  Carnahan                Harkin                  Smith (NH)
  Carper                  Helms                   Snowe
  Chafee                  Hutchinson              Stabenow
  Cochran                 Hutchison               Thomas
  Collins                 Inhofe                  Thompson
  Conrad                  Johnson                 Thurmond
  Craig                   Kyl                     Torricelli
  Crapo                   Landrieu                Voinovich
  Dodd                    Lott                    Warner
  Dorgan                  Lugar                   Wyden

                            NOT VOTING --- 6
  Bennett                 Domenici                Smith (OR)
  Campbell                Hatch                   Stevens

    I hope everyone can contact Sen. Harry Reid and thank him  for his leadership on this most important issue. His email is or phone him at 202-224-3542 or fax him at 202-224-7327or write him c/o U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510.

    In the same way, can you contact Sen. Arlen Specter who helped Sen. Reid. His phone number is 202-224-4254 and fax is
202-228-1229 or write him at the same address. Sen. Specter as well as every Senator has a website. Go to and there is a form you can fill out to express your opinion. Finally, call the Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121 and ask for the offices of your two senators. Try to talk to the staffer over the election bill. If the Senator voted with us, express thanks!. If they voted against us,  strongly express your disappointment. Your call has an effect. Many times when I visit congressional offices, I observe staffers keeping count on the negative and positive calls the Senator receives on a specific issue. Charlie

PS. Or, go to your two senators websites and fill out the form.

> Dear Senator Reid,
> Thank you so much for leading the effort to permit ex-felons to vote.
> Everyone seems to want ex-prisoners to be good citizens, but all too many
> don't want to grant them the tools of citizenship.  How terribly
> shortsighted!
> My congratulations to you for having the courage to stand up for such an
> important issue!
> Sincerely,
> Kay Perry