The U.S. Voting Rights Revisited for Felony Convicts: An Update from the Sentencing Project
It’s not always possible for people with a felony conviction to get on the ballot. Currently, 11 states deny voting rights to people after they finish their full sentences, including parole and probation, with additional action required in some states.
The Sentencing Project released research Tuesday that stated that voting rights were restored for people with prior felony convictions.
“This report makes it clear that millions of our citizens will not voice their opinions during the upcoming elections,” Fettig said in a statement. It’s not the first time that ballot access has been restricted, like poll taxes, literacy tests and property requirements were used in the past.
She said she is keeping an eye on Florida. Most people who completed their prison sentences had their voting rights restored by voters there in the last year. In order to get back onto the ballot, returning citizens have to fulfill every piece of their sentence, including paying fines and fees.
The number of Americans who have a felony conviction has been decreasing over the last couple of years. Since 2016, that number has declined by 24% “as more states enacted policies to curtail this practice and state prison populations declined modestly,” according to the new research.
Researchers believe that at least half a million Latinx Americans or 1.7 percent of the voting eligible population may be disenfranchised in this year’s elections.
Among states, Florida has the highest number of disenfranchised citizens, with more than 1.1 million people currently prohibited from casting a ballot. Researchers say that most of those individuals are disenfranchised because they can’t afford court fees or fines.
Florida’s new voting law confused election officials and created a lack of database to make sure if someone qualifies to have their voting rights restored.
Many of the individuals charged told law enforcement officials they thought they were eligible to vote because they had completed their sentences and had been issued a voter registration card. So far, at least one of those cases has been dismissed.
State lawmakers across the country appear poised this year to continue a trend of revisiting rules for granting voting rights to people who were convicted of a felony.
Legislators in New Mexico are also debating similar legislation. There are proposals in Nebraska, Oregon and Illinois that have “very strong prospects” for 2023.
And while almost 70 bills have been introduced throughout the country this year to restore voting rights to returning citizens, according to the left-leaning Democracy Docket, Porter said there are a few states considering rolling back rights for the formerly incarcerated.
She said there are two conversations going on in the country. “One is about expanding rights and then one about suppressing or undermining rights.”
Sentencing Involved Voter Crimes in Indiana, a Case Study with the Selected Senators Against Measures of Innocence
Lawmakers in Republican-led Indiana, for example, are considering legislation that would strip voting rights of anyone convicted of voter fraud for 10 years after a conviction, regardless of whether they are incarcerated. Indiana only lets individuals out of jail during the time they’re there.
Lawmakers and state officials did not, however, create a database or system for the formerly incarcerated to check whether they had regained their rights. As a result, The Sentencing Project estimated last year that about 934,000 Floridians who had completed their sentences remained disenfranchised because of the state’s law.
Porter said the general trend of legislation was moving toward expanding ballot access.