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Disenfranchisement News: How Florida’s felony disenfranchisement laws impact elections

November 08, 2016
Analysis finds Floridians with felony convictions would cast nearly 60K ballots in this election, D.C.mayor visits local jail to help eligible individuals vote, and more in our latest Disenfranchisement News.

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Analysis finds Floridians with felony convictions would cast nearly 60K ballots in this election

Of the 6.1 million disenfranchised Americans, 1.7 million live in Florida. According to an analysis by the Naples Daily News, if Floridians with felony convictions were allowed to register, an estimated 258,060 would sign up as Democrats, 46,920 as Republicans, and 84,456 as independent and third party. The research was based on voting trends from North Carolina’s disenfranchised population, which has a party composition that closely mirror’s Florida’s. In total, the analysis found that Floridians with felony convictions would cast an estimated 58,885 ballots. This is a significant number of votes given Florida’s history of tight races. “In 2000, Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush by 537 votes decided the presidency. Even in 2012, President Barack Obama scraped past former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by just 74,309 votes. Gov. Rick Scott won his two elections by just over 60,000 votes each.”

After Gov. Scott took office in 2011, Florida became one of the toughest states in the country for people with felony convictions to regain their voting rights. So few people had their rights restored during Gov. Scott’s first term that many others stopped applying. Applications for restoration of civil rights under Gov. Scott have dropped by nearly 95% from former Gov. Charlie Crist’s administration.

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Video shows how one Floridian lost his right to vote

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, in partnership with TIME, The Atlantic and the Miami Herald, released a video highlighting the story of Roderick Kemp, a Florida man who is barred from voting in this election because of a 30-year-old conviction for drug possession. Kemp spent just a few months in jail in 1986, and had been voting all his life. In 2015, he received a letter in the mail informing him that his voting rights had been revoked. Kemp is one of 10,000 Floridians applying for clemency this year. On average, Gov. Scott approves only about 400 cases annually. You can watch Roderick Kemp’s story here.

70,000 people in Virginia with felony convictions have been registered to vote

There are an estimated 70,000 people with prior felony convictions who have been registered to vote in the upcoming election, according to The Guardian. After a confusing back and forth legal battle between Gov. McAuliffe and Republican leadership, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Governor could only restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis. Tammie Hagen, a formerly incarcerated individual working for New Virginia Majority, was one of many advocates trying to help people with felony convictions get their rights restored through gubernatorial clemency, and registered to vote before the October 17th deadline. Hagen estimates that she alone has registered 600-800 Virginians and has submitted “several hundred requests” for voting rights restoration to Gov. McAuliffe’s office. “Nothing can stand in the way of this mission,” Hagen said. “This is about democracy.”

New Iowa coalition forms to reform felony disenfranchisement

A coalition of 17 organizations recently formed to advocate for legislation, and eventually a Constitutional amendment, to scale back the impact of felony disenfranchisement in Iowa. The Coalition for Fair Restoration of Voting Rights plans to focus first on restoring rights to those convicted of a nonviolent felony who have completed their sentence. Under the proposed legislation for next session, only Iowans convicted of murder, sexual abuse, robbery and kidnapping would lose their voting rights. Civil rights advocates say the current system for restoring voting rights, which Gov. Terry Branstad streamlined earlier this year, remains overly burdensome. “This is a situation where people have already served their time. Justice has been exacted, and people are continuing to suffer the collateral damage,” says Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP and member of the Coalition.

Mayor visits D.C. jail to help eligible individuals vote

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Board of Elections went to the D.C. jail to help individuals awaiting trial and those serving misdemeanors cast absentee ballots for the upcoming presidential election. According to the D.C. Board of Elections, D.C. is one of only three jurisdictions that has established a process by which eligible individuals in jail are permitted to vote. Each person is given a voter registration card when they are first admitted. “We want to involve everybody in the franchise,” said Mayor Bowser. Individuals serving felony sentences at the D.C. jail are not allowed to vote until they complete their sentences.

Unable to vote, New Yorkers on parole travel to Ohio to inform formerly incarcerated adults about their voting rights

The Fortune Society, a reentry advocacy organization, and a group of New Yorkers on felony parole recently traveled to Ohio to inform Ohio residents with felony convictions of their right to vote. In New York, individuals with a felony conviction are barred from voting until they complete their parole supervision. However, Ohio (a battleground state in the presidential election) is one of 14 states that allow those with felony convictions to vote as soon as they are released from prison. Many people in Ohio on felony parole are unaware of their right to vote, which is why the New Yorkers took a road trip to Cleveland. “I can’t vote, so let me try to encourage at least five other people — family members and friends — by talking about political issues and how they affect us. And why you should vote,” one New York group member said.

C-SPAN highlights The Sentencing Project’s 6 Million Lost Voters Report

Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, was recently featured on C-SPAN discussing The Sentencing Project’s publication, 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016. The report found that 6.1 million people — 1 of every 40 adults — are disenfranchised because of state laws that bar voting by Americans with a felony conviction, and in some states even if they have completed all requirements of their sentence. Over three-quarters of this population (4.7 million people) are not incarcerated, but are living in their local communities – some on probation or parole, while others have completed their legal obligations. The program discussed the various state laws and recent reforms. Mauer responded to telephone calls and electronic communications from people for and against restoring rights to people with felony convictions, including a telephone line reserved for people with felony convictions.

Young man asks to vote before pleading guilty to a felony

A young man facing up to 20 years in prison asked a federal judge if he could vote before pleading guilty to a felony. “I’ve been waiting to vote all my life,” said 20-year-old Reginald Albright. Albright says he has always felt an obligation to vote because he knows how hard his Mississippi ancestors fought for their voting rights, and what they had to endure just to register to vote. The U.S. Attorney did not object to Albright’s request and the U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. granted him permission to vote. After Albright returned to the courthouse and pleaded guilty, he said, “It made me feel good to vote, to do this one time before it was taken away from me. Maybe I’ll get another chance.”