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State laws on voting after a felony conviction vary widely: NPR


An estimated 2% of the voting-age population in the United States will not be eligible to vote in this year’s midterm elections due to state laws barring people with felony convictions from voting.

That’s according to a study released Tuesday by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that advocates for restoring the right to vote to people who have previously been convicted of a crime.

“This report makes it clear that millions of our fellow citizens will be left speechless in future terms,” ​​Amy Fettig, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Criminal disenfranchisement is just the latest in a long line of attempts to restrict access to the ballot, just as poll taxes, literacy tests and property requirements have been used in the past.”

The impact of these state-level bans, which are in effect in 48 states across the country, vary widely depending on where a person lives.

According to the Sentencing Project, state-level disenfranchisement rates range from 0.15% in Massachusetts to over 8% in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. In Vermont and Maine (as well as Washington, DC), no people are disenfranchised because those jurisdictions allow people in prison to vote.

Currently, 11 states deny people the right to vote after serving their full sentence, including parole and probation.

Overall, the number of Americans disenfranchised due to a felony conviction has declined in recent years. Since 2016, that number has dropped by 24% “as more states have adopted policies to limit this practice and the state prison population has declined slightly,” according to the new research.

In 2016, 6.1 million people convicted of crimes were deprived of their rights. This year, an estimated 4.6 million people will be banned from voting.

Demographic disparities and unrest in Florida

The Sentencing Project also found that state-level voting bans disproportionately impact black and Latino voters.

According to the report, “1 in 19 African Americans of voting age are disenfranchised, a rate 3.5 times that of non-African Americans.”

And researchers estimate that “at least 506,000 Latinx Americans or – or 1.7% of the eligible voting population” are also disenfranchised in this year’s midterm elections.

Because data on ethnicity is reported unevenly and is limited, the researchers say, this estimate is likely an underestimate of true rates of disenfranchisement among Latinos. Even with the undercount, the report notes, “31 states report a higher rate of disenfranchisement in the Latinx population” than in their general population.

Among the states, Florida has the highest number of disenfranchised citizens, with more than 1.1 million people currently banned from voting. According to the researchers, most of these people are disenfranchised simply because they cannot afford court fees or fines.

In 2018, voters in Florida approved a ballot measure restoring the right to vote to people who have served their jail time – except those convicted of murder or a criminal sex offence. But Republican state lawmakers then passed a bill requiring those returning citizens to serve every part of their sentence, including paying fees or fines, in order to regain their right to vote. The Sentencing Project estimates that approximately 934,500 Floridians who have served their sentences remain disenfranchised due to state law.

Florida’s measure came to the fore again in August, when Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state was charging 20 people with voter fraud because they allegedly voted in the 2020 election despite being convicted of a crime that prevented them from regaining their right to vote. .

Many indictees told law enforcement officials that they believed they could vote because they had served their sentence and received a voter’s card. So far, at least one such case has been dismissed.

Suffrage advocates say the arrests were largely due to confusion created by Florida law, as well as the lack of a database for election officials to check if someone qualifies to vote. his right to vote be restored.

NPR News

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