Felony Disenfranchisement Will Keep Many Blacks From Voting


by Frederick Lowe

With the 2016 Presidential election around the corner on November 8th, The Sentencing Project is reporting that 6.1 million individuals will be prohibited from voting because of felony convictions and most of them are African American.

“One in 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than that of non-African Americans,” reports The Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C.-based organization that promotes a fair and effective U.S. Justice System. “Over 7.4 percent of the adult African American population is disenfranchised compared to 1.8 percent of the non-African-American population.”

The Sentencing Project noted that in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, disenfranchisement rates vary significantly by state.

Battleground Florida

In Florida, a battleground state in November’s election, where Republican Donald Trump is currently leading Democrat Hillary Clinton, 21 percent of African Americans are disenfranchised. In Kentucky, 26 percent of blacks are disenfranchised; in Tennessee, 21 percent are disenfranchised and in Virginia, the cradle of the Confederacy, 22 percent are disenfranchised. In Sunshine State, it’s nothing but stormy weather for ex-cons. Nearly 1.5 million individuals are disenfranchised or 48 percent of the national total.

Felony disenfranchisement rates

Felony Disenfranchisement rates vary from less than .5 percent in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah. It is zero percent in Maine and Vermont to more than 7 percent in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

In April, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights for 206,000 ex-offenders, but the Virginia Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision issued in June ruled that McAuliffe did not have the authority to make such a proclamation. In August, Gov. McAuliffe said his office will issue voter restoration orders on an individual basis to Virginians who have completed their sentences staring with 13,000 residents who had their registrations cancelled.

Felony voting rights

Felon voting rights

In a report titled “6 Million Lost Voters: State –Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016,” The Sentencing Project reported felony disenfranchisement has grown with the expansion of U.S. penal system.

In 1976, 1.176 million people were banned from voting because of felony convictions. In 2016, the number rose to 6.1 million.

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