Voting Rights Watch: Settlement allows Alabama prisoner registration to continue

A settlement reached this week will allow a minister to continue registering eligible voters currently incarcerated in Alabama's prisons.

The Ordinary People's Society, with assistance from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit after the state Department of Corrections cancelled Rev. Kenneth Glasgow's voter registration efforts following protests by the Alabama Republican Party.

"Now I can continue the ministry that God gave me: helping to give a voice to the voiceless by reaching out to people in Alabama's correctional facilities who are eligible to vote," said Glasgow. "The ministry is so critical because too many in Alabama's correctional facilities who are eligible to vote don't know it. What's worse is that literally thousands of people are incarcerated in our state prisons for drug possession alone -- these people deserve treatment, not incarceration."

Nearly 250,000 Alabama residents have had their voting rights taken away due to a felony conviction. But a 2006 state court ruling held that only those persons convicted of felonies of "moral turpitude" lose their right to vote, and certain felonies -- including drug possession -- do not constitute such crimes.

Alabama has the nation's sixth-highest incarceration rate, and almost half of all prisoners are serving time for drug-related crimes. While drug use is equal across all racial groups, black people are incarcerated for drug crimes at a higher rate. While blacks make up 26 percent of Alabama's population, they represent almost 60 percent of the state's prison population.

Glasgow's efforts are part of the New Bottom Line Campaign, which is calling for effective alternatives to the failed war on drugs.