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October 31, 2012 (Cronkite News)

State laws keep 200,000 citizens from voting in Arizona

Jean Salazar is serving three years probation and must pay restitution after pleading guilty to felony theft for writing herself more than $74,000 in unearned paychecks when she worked as a doctor’s office manager.

Because of that felony record, under Arizona law she won’t be able to vote in this year’s election. It’s among the reasons she regrets what she did.

“Without your voice in the voting process, you can’t change what’s frustrating you,” Salazar said.

Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said disenfranchising felons doesn’t make sense.

“Fundamentally, democracy is about participation by everyone, and we don’t put a character test on the right to vote,” Mauer said. “By excluding people because of felony convictions, we’re confusing legislative goals of punishment with forfeiting legitimate rights of citizenship.”

The Sentencing Project estimates that 200,000 citizens with felony convictions in Arizona, half of whom aren’t in prison, aren’t eligible to vote in the Nov. 6 election. 

Nationwide, some 5.85 million citizens have been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, according to The Sentencing Project report, State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 2010.

Issue Area(s): Incarceration, Racial Disparity, Felony Disenfranchisement, Collateral Consequences