How People With Criminal Records Are Disenfranchised — 2017

How People With Criminal Records Are Disenfranchised — 2017

How People With Criminal Records Are Disenfranchised; Quianna Canada, Quianna S. Canada, Quianna Snoemie Canada

How People With Criminal Records Are Disenfranchised — 2017 —The term felony disenfranchisement (or, more specifically, felony voting disenfranchisement) refers to the denial of the right to vote to incarcerated persons and previously incarcerated individuals who were convicted of certain classified crimes (they may or may not have committed), though not necessarily felonies. Since the adoption of the practice in colonial America, felony disenfranchisement has become a common practice within the United States. This practice has been particularly harmful to racial minorities, who have had the ability to exercise their political clout compromised.

In the late first decade of the twenty-first century, nearly 5 million Americans—or one in forty-three adults—are currently without voting rights as a result of a felony conviction. Forty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have denied the right to vote to those who hold felony convictions. The states that restore voting rights to some offenders on the completion of incarceration are Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Virginia. Three states require individual petition to the court for restoration of voting after all offenses, and those states are Florida, Ohio, and Kentucky.

On issues of racial justice, the Vermont senator, #BernieSanders said, “In the shameful days of open segregation, literacy laws and poll taxes were used to suppress minority voting. Today, through other laws and actions — such as requiring voters to show photo ID, discriminatory drawing of Congressional districts, restricting same-day registration and early voting and aggressively purging voter rolls — states are taking steps which have a similar effect,” when talking about the #disenfranchisement, and the website further stated, “thirteen percent of African-American men have lost the #right to vote due to felony convictions,” — the states Maine and Vermont are consistent with his views as they do not impose felony disenfranchisement.

Although there is variety in felony disenfranchisement #legislative schemes, such legislation may generally be classified under three categories: permanent, modified permanent, or restorative disenfranchisement.

In a permanent disenfranchisement jurisdiction, a felony offender is denied the right to vote for life. Three states—Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia—deny the right to vote to all previously incarcerated people, and can thus be classified as permanent disenfranchisement jurisdictions.

In these jurisdictions, the restoration of voting rights is still possible, but only through a pardon by the governor or by the action of the probation or parole board. Twelve states are modified permanent jurisdictions. Here, permanent disability is imposed only on certain classes of the previously incarcerated, and restoration may be subject to a waiting period.

In a restorative felony disenfranchisement jurisdiction, restoration is either automatic after incarceration, probation, or parole, or it is available after the ex-offender completes a designated process following incarceration, #probation, or #parole. The restorative process varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and it is often too cumbersome, and sometimes too expensive, for most ex-offenders to successfully complete.

Racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated and most likely to be victims of #massincarceration and are denied the right to vote by felony disenfranchisement legislation. More than a third of those disenfranchised are African-American men. According to The Sentencing Project, it is estimated that 1,400,000 African-American men (or about 13% of African-American men) have been denied the right to vote by felony disenfranchisement legislation.

Poll Tax a tax levied on every adult, without reference to income or resources.

The rate of disenfranchisement of African-American men is seven times that of the national average. In at least six states, one in four African-American men is permanently disenfranchised. Further, it is projected that if current disparities in incarceration continue, 30 percent of the next generation of African-American men will be disenfranchised over the course of their lives, and that in some states nearly 40 percent of African-American men will be permanently denied the right to vote.

Reconstruction Era The period after the Civil War, 1865 – 1877, was called the Reconstruction period. Abraham Lincoln started planning for the reconstruction of the South during the Civil War as Union soldiers occupied huge areas of the South. He wanted to bring the Nation back together as quickly as possible and in December 1863 he offered his plan for Reconstruction which required that the States new constitutions prohibit slavery.

Disparate Disenfranchisement

The disparate disenfranchisement of African Americans is the result of both intent and effect. Felony disenfranchisement was specifically and consciously co-opted during the post-Reconstruction era as a tool— along with the poll tax and literacy requirements—to prevent blacks from availing themselves of the political clout that the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution promised. White legislators of this era boldly asserted their racist desire and expectation that disenfranchisement would diminish the ability of African Americans to secure political power.

Alabama’s Disenfranchisement Scheme

Thus, southern states required the disenfranchisement of defendants convicted of crimes that the legislature associated with African Americans, although some of these crimes were not, in fact, felonies. These legislatures often refused to require the disenfranchisement of those crimes believed to be primarily committed by whites, such as murder, even though these crimes were much more severe than the offenses associated with African Americans, such as theft.

Moral Turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. This term appears in U.S. immigration law beginning in the 19th century.

The racially influenced categorization of offenses subject to disenfranchisement remained in place until the mid-1980s, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama’s grossly unconstitutional disenfranchisement scheme, which disenfranchised people for reasons of ‘‘moral turpitude.’’ In the early twenty-first century, legislatures perpetuated and tolerated the predictable racial disparities produced by felony disenfranchisement. The disparate disenfranchisement rates were the product of the racial disparities produced by the criminal justice system. As a result of the targeting of minorities through various efforts waged in the name of the war on drugs and various wars on crime, minorities were disparately prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated for felonies.

Carly Hayden Foster, associate professor of political science at Luther in Decorah, Lowa will give a lecture and speak on felon disenfranchisement laws, which prohibited more than six million American citizens from voting in the 2016 election. She will argue that the laws are shaped by racial politics, and will discuss felon disenfranchisement in the context of democracy and social justice. If you live in Iowa, attend because it’s free!


  • Demleitner, Nora V. 2000. ‘‘Continuing Payment on One’s Debt to Society: The German Model of Felon
    Disenfranchisement as an Alternative.’’ Minnesota Law Review 84 (4): 753–804.
  • Gottllieb, Michael J. 2002. ‘‘One Person, No Vote: The Laws of Felon Disenfranchisement.’’ Harvard Law Review 115 (7): 1939–1963.
  • Human Rights Watch, and the Sentencing Project. 1998. ‘‘Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Law in the United States.’’ Available from
  • Lippke, Richard. 2001. ‘‘The Disenfranchisement of Felons.’’ Law and Philosophy 20 (6): 553–580.
  • Magee, Robin K. 1994. ‘‘Myth of the Good Cop and the Inadequacy of Fourth Amendment Remedies for Black Men.’’ Capital University Law Review 23 (1): 151–219.
  • Preuhs, Robert R. 2001. ‘‘State Felon Disenfranchisement Policy.’’ Social Science Quarterly 82 (4): 733–748.
  • Sentencing Project. ‘‘Felony Disenfranchisement: A Review of Scholarly Literature.’’ Available from

About Quianna Canada

Quianna Canada is an anti-police brutality activist, author, and opinion writer living in the United States.
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  1. useful than ever before.

  2. I could not} refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well} written! I’ll immediately grab your feed as I can not find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Thanks.

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