Millions of Americans can't vote because of a prior conviction despite having served their sentence!
Did you know that 5.2 million Americans are disenfranchised? 2.3% of the voting age population! Felony disenfranchisement laws don't hurt all Americans equally. Judge for yourself:
- Which states have disenfranchised the most voters?
- Which states have the harshest disenfranchisement laws?
- Which racial group is being disenfranchised the most?
- Which party do most of the Senators and Governors for these states belong to?
- Which state requires former felons to pay their legal financial obligations (LFO) - but won't tell them how much they owe?
Racial felony disenfranchisement
Florida under DeSantis leads in disenfranchisement
Florida is the disenfranchisement leader. Over 1.1 million people are currently banned from voting – often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions or because the state isn't obligated to tell them the amount of their sanction. Nearly 900,000 Floridians who have completed their sentences are estimated to be disenfranchised, despite a 2018 ballot referendum that promised to restore their voting rights.
Nearly 900,000 Floridians who have completed their sentences are estimated to be still disenfranchised, despite a 2018 ballot referendum that promised to restore their voting rights. Florida thus remains the nation’s disenfranchisement leader in absolute numbers, with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting – often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions or because the state is not obligated to tell them the amount of their sanction. - The Sentencing Project.
Four months after a federal judge ruled that it was akin to an unconstitutional poll tax for Florida to require that people with serious criminal convictions pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote, an appeals court narrowly overturned that decision. The court’s 6-4 ruling dealt a significant blow to civil rights groups that have fought to expand the voter rolls with hundreds of thousands of people who had completed prison time and parole for felony convictions. - NY Times
America has chosen to deprive liberty to a historically aggrieved group, whose liberty in the United States was never firmly established to begin with. explains sociologist Bruce Western in The Atlantic. Going to prison has become a normal life event for certain demographics of young black men.
Understand racial disenfranchisement
Rates of disenfranchisement vary dramatically by state due to broad variations in voting prohibitions. In three states – Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee more than 8 percent of the adult population, one of every thirteen people, is disenfranchised.
One in 16 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate 3.7 times greater than that of non-African Americans. Over 6.2 percent of the adult African American population is disenfranchised compared to 1.7 percent of the non-African American population.
African American disenfranchisement rates vary significantly by state. In seven states – Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming – more than one in seven African Americans is disenfranchised, twice the national average for African Americans.
Over 560,000 Latin Americans or over 2 percent of the voting eligible population are estimated to be disenfranchised. - Sentencing Project
Resources for returning citizens
- The National Reentry Network For Returning Citizens - A national network of individuals returning from incarceration who support each other’s successful reintegration. It uses a client-centered approach to identify basic needs and to create a continuum of care that can address barriers to reentry, promote restorative practices, and reduce recidivism.
- Returning Citizens provides returning citizens and their loved ones with resources to promote successful reentry and reintegration into the community.
- National Re-entry Resource Center provides information for returning citizens. It maintains a listing of all Second Chance Act grantees to help people connect with potential service providers in their communities as well as a Helpline to assist those preparing for reentry.
- National Institute of Corrections is a resource for those in the field of corrections. It helps find locate resources, and provides referrals at no cost. The NIC Library has over 18,000 corrections-related items.
- The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice issues.
- Brennan Center For Justice an independent, nonpartisan law and policy organization that works to reform, revitalize, and when necessary, defend our country’s systems of democracy and justice.
- Florida Restoration Rights Coalition works to end the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions with resources such as:
Take Away: Call out politicians who cling to office by passing racial voter felony laws to suppress voters.
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Image Credit: Tim Mossholder