October 25, 2012
A potentially powerful yet shunned voting bloc
Citizens with felony convictions could account for up to 10 percent of the roughly 130 million Americans expected to vote in the November 6 election-- more than enough to affect the razor-thin margins that could determine the outcome.
Yet neither Democrats nor Republicans are doing much to reach out to them.
"Criminals are not a popular constituency," says James Hamm, 64, who spent 17 years in prison in Arizona for a drug-related homicide and now heads an inmate advocacy group with his wife, a retired judge. "Politicians don't want to say, 'Hey, I have the backing of people who committed crimes.'"
According to a report, State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 2010, by The Sentencing Project, 5.85 million citizens have been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said this constituency is generally ignored when it comes to voting.
"There simply isn't a lot of encouragement for them to even register," said Mauer. "If we believe everyone should vote, we shouldn't put character conditions on it."