July 12th, 2012
Report Reveals One in Thirteen African Americans of Voting Age Is Disenfranchised
Felon disenfranchisement laws prohibit otherwise eligible citizens from voting because they have been convicted of a felony. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia disenfranchise people while they are in prison, on probation, or on parole, and eleven states continue to disenfranchise people even after they have completed their sentences.
On July 12, 2012, The Sentencing Project reported that felon disenfranchisement laws significantly restrict participation in the democratic process and, exacerbated by racial disparities in the criminal justice system, significantly reduce the voting power of communities of color. As of December 31, 2010, an estimated 5.85 million Americans were ineligible to vote because of state laws disenfranchising felons. Only about 25 percent of that population was incarcerated in jail or prison; the remaining 75 percent had returned home having successfully completed their sentences or were supervised in their communities by probation or parole. As a result of felon disenfranchisement laws, more than four million Americans live, work, and pay taxes while unable to vote.
Disenfranchisement laws disproportionately restrict communities of color from participating in the political process. One out of every thirteen African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised – more than four times the rate for non-African Americans. In Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, more than 20 percent of the voting-age African American population is barred from voting. Nationwide, nearly one million African Americans remain disenfranchised despite having served their sentences and returned to their communities.
Despite these staggering numbers, felon disenfranchisement has remained almost immune to judicial challenge because courts have ruled that section two of the Fourteenth Amendment, which permits abridging the right to vote “for participation in rebellion or other crime,” explicitly authorizes barring people with felony convictions from voting.