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Proposed Georgia law would let some felons keep voting rights

There are many ways in which a conviction for drug possession can turn a person's life upside down. Fighting criminal charges takes an emotional and financial toll, and many accused persons may find their friends and co-workers keeping them at a distance. In Georgia, as in 21 other states, the right to vote is restricted by a drug conviction.

Georgians are kept off valid voter rolls while completing any sentence related to felony charges. This includes the results of plea bargains as well as jury or bench convictions and covers convicts in jail, on probation or released on parole.

A state senator representing Georgia's state capital is attempting to allow people convicted of drug possession to retain their voting rights with a new bill proposed in the legislature. His argument is that people who have been convicted solely on those grounds do not lack the moral judgment required to cast a vote.

"The conversation nationwide and in the state is that narcotic use, use-only, is more of a health concern than a criminal justice concern. Why are we necessarily preventing those folks from voting?" asks the state senator who authored the bill.

Loss of voting rights may not be at the top of mind for people facing convictions on drug charges, but it is one reason to fight charges so they do not result in a felony conviction. Convictions may also complicate careers options, even if no jail time is part of a bargain with prosecutors. It is always advisable to consult a lawyer on the likelihood of creating a defense against drug charges.

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