TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 157, Commission on Forfeited Rights
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library staff.
Copyright © 2008 by the Connecticut State Library
Prior to 1949, the General Assembly reviewed all petitions for restoration of electoral rights forfeited by persons convicted of various offenses. The process was criticized because (a) the legislature met once every two years, (b) petitioners received undesirable publicity, and (c) the influx of petitions increased the assembly's workload. In 1948 voters approved an amendment to Section 3 of Article VI of the State Constitution and Article XVII of the amendments thereto, directing the General Assembly to "prescribe the offense on the conviction of which the privileges of an elector shall be forfeited and the conditions on which and methods by which rights" were to be restored. The General Assembly responded by creating the Commission on Forfeited Rights (Public Act 350, 1949 Supplement to the General Statutes, Revised 1959, Revised 1964, Sections 9-46 to 9-49).
The Commission consisted of three members, appointed in each odd-numbered year for two-year terms. The Governor appointed an elector, the Speaker of the House appointed a member of that body, and the President Pro Tempore appointed a member from the Senate. The law prohibited any active judges of the Supreme Court, any Superior Court or Court of Common Pleas or any State Referee from serving on the Commission.
The General Assembly directed that the Commission meet once quarterly at the county court house in Hartford or any other county court house in order to hold hearings on petitions. Meetings were closed to the public. Commission members also met with pre-release inmates at the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers to inform them of procedures for regaining voting rights. The Assembly empowered the Commission to summon witnesses, to issue subpoenas, to have access to records of prosecuting attorneys, to make its own regulations regarding hearings, and to make decisions from which there were no appeals.
Public Act 350 also made provisions for the process. Petitioners (or friends or family members) filed affidavits giving information about the conviction and sentence, a complete criminal history, and current address and occupation or employment of the petitioner. The Commission could not hear any petition until six months after release of the petitioner from a correctional facility or after discharge from parole or probation. The Commission could request that the State Police investigate and report on any petitioner prior to hearings. The law directed the Commission to inform petitioners, their friends and relatives, chief executives of towns, boroughs, or cities of residence, and state's attorneys or prosecuting attorneys of courts of original jurisdiction of impending hearings.
Majority vote was required by law for approval of any petition. The Commission informed appropriate local registrars of voters of every approved petition. Petitioners, where applications were rejected, had the right to rehearing six months after the original decision.
In 1945 the General Assembly considered a bill to abolish the Commission (see Public Act 354). Critics of the Commission, including the Secretary of the State charged that procedures deterred potential candidates from petitioning and cited figures showing that since 1949, the Commission had received only 2,100 petitions out of a potential total of 46,000. The legislature abolished the Commission effective June 30, 1975 and provided fro automatic restoration of voting rights upon submission of evidence to registrars of voters in the locality of a petitioner's residence at time of conviction of discharge from incarceration, probation, or parole.
See also the Commission on Forfeited Rights Brief Agency Description.
Series 1. Minutes of Meetings include records of meetings, quarterly reports, reports about prison visits, press releases, newspaper clippings, transcript of hearing on P.A. 354. Series 2. Sound Recordings consist of five inch diameter discs, most of which are marked with names and dates of petitioners. The cover about half the number of petitions. They may be dictaphone recordings of hearings. However, equipment to hear recordings is not available. Series 3. Petitioners Case Files contain files of applicants whose petitions were approved. Files contain affidavit from petitioner, two letters of character references, hearing transcripts, correspondence relating to hearings, final decisions. Series 4. is Administrative Subject Files.
Arranged into four series: Minutes that are arranged chronologically; Sound recordings are unarranged; Petitioner case files are arranged alphabetically by petitioner last name; Administrative subject files arranged alphabetically.
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Restrictions on Use
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Connecticut. Commission on Forfeited Rights
Connecticut. Commission on Forfeited Rights -- Records and correspondence
Ex-convicts -- Suffrage -- Connecticut
Political rights, Loss of -- Connecticut
The records of the Commission were discovered in May, 1984 in the State Capitol basement and were accessioned in that month into the State Archives. In the initial arrangement, useless financial records relating largely to application fees were weeded out.