WASHINGTON, D.C. — As of Friday, Jan. 20, Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced several proposals to end felony disenfranchisement through a state constitutional amendment. Massachusetts state Sens. Liz Miranda (D) and Adam Gomez (D) filed both a bill to alter the statute and a legislative amendment to the state constitution to make the relevant changes. Parallel proposals were introduced by Massachusetts state Reps. Erika Uyterhoeven (D), Chynah Tyler (D) and Mindy Domb (D) in the state House. Currently, Massachusetts revokes the right to vote from individuals convicted of felonies for the duration of their incarceration. This constitutional amendment would align the Bay State with only a handful of other jurisdictions — Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C. — that permit all voters, regardless of criminal conviction or incarceration status, to vote.
To change the state constitution, a proposal must pass the Massachusetts Legislature with 25% of the vote in two consecutive sessions before appearing on the ballot before voters. Notably, all incarcerated individuals maintained the right to vote in Massachusetts until 2000. Then-acting Gov. Paul Cellucci (R) proposed a petition initiative to revoke this right, largely as a reaction to civic engagement and voter registration work by incarcerated voters.
Recently, several New York Democrats introduced an amendment to the New York Constitution, similar to the new proposals in Massachusetts, to allow all incarcerated individuals to maintain the right to vote. In the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers across the country are considering rights restoration proposals that make narrower changes, predominantly improving voting access for individuals on probation or parole.