Two players on the New Orleans Saints NFL team are voicing their support for legislation that seeks to restore voting rights to some felons in Louisiana.
SB Nation reports that linebacker Demario Davis and tight end Ben Watson have penned a letter to Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, a New Orleans Democrat who chairs the Senate committee on voting issues, as the full Senate prepares to take up House Bill 265.
"As professional athletes, we are blessed to have a platform that allows us to yield our loud voices for change. We choose to use this platform now to request that you restore the right to vote to those who also live, work, and make change daily in our community. Keeping this most fundamental right from those because of one mistake is undemocratic, unfair, and inhumane," the duo wrote in the letter, which SB Nation has printed in full.
Davis and Watson are both no stranger to social activism. Davis, who signed with the Saints as a free agent in March, is a member of the Players Coalition, the group that formed last September to focus on fighting for social justice issues and criminal justice reform. Davis spent a day in the Bronx public defender's office in December, met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and spearheaded an effort around criminal justice in New York in March.
Watson, a two-time Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, is the author of "Under Our Skin," a book he wrote about racial reconciliation in 2015.
It has taken multiple attempts, but the years-long effort to restore voting rights to some convicted felons on probation and parole is rapidly advancing as lawmakers prepare to end their session as early as Friday.
A bid to restore voting rights to some of Louisiana's convicted felons still serving probation and parole neared final legislative passage Mon…
It has taken multiple attempts, but a years-long effort to restore voting rights to some convicted felons on probation and parole is now headi…
Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Pat Smith's HB265 would eliminate a more than four-decade-old Louisiana law that prohibits all felons on probation and parole from voting. The bill, which would restore their rights after five years, had been rejected on the House floor twice this session and in multiple previous sessions before gaining momentum last week.
The state Constitution prohibits people “under an order of imprisonment” on a felony conviction from voting. A 1976 law expanded that to felons on probation and parole.
If approved, HB265 would for the first time since then allow felons on probation or parole to register to vote five years after their prison release.
In addition to the legislative attempt to change the law, it is also facing a challenge in court.
A group called Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) and several individual felons charge that the law is unconstitutional and prevents more than 70,000 felons on probation and parole in Louisiana from voting.
"The criminal justice system’s goal is to hold people accountable, but it is not to deliver what for some is a lifetime of disenfranchisement. The criminal justice system, in other words, should not keep voices from democratic participation," Davis and Watson wrote in their letter.