Skip to main content
News

Voting Rights for Individuals with Felony Convictions

May 18, 2016
Voting is a fundamental right of democracy that should include all individuals, including those with felony convictions.

The national conversation about felony disenfranchisement is growing this election year, especially since Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s recent action to restore voting rights to over 200,000 Virginians with felony convictions.

The Sentencing Project’s Executive Director Marc Mauer wrote a syndicated commentary arguing that voting is a fundamental right of democracy that should include all individuals, including those with felony convictions.

Why should we permit people with felony convictions to vote? In part, this is what democracy is all about. Voting rights are determined based on citizenship, not character. If we disqualify someone based on a past conviction, what about someone who is openly racist, a serial adulterer, or an athlete who uses steroids?

In addition, reducing obstacles for individuals reentering society benefits public safety, and civic engagement helps the integration of returning citizens.

Think about a person coming home from a five-year prison sentence. He is most likely to succeed if he can get a job, find a place to live, and establish strong ties to the community. If we tell him that he’s a second-class citizen who can’t vote, that can only create barriers to his integration. By extending the right to vote to people who have made mistakes, we can both build a more inclusive democracy and make our communities safer.

Read the full commentary here.

 
Related Posts
publications
February 13, 2018

Felony Disenfranchisement in Mississippi

One Voice, Mississippi NAACP, and The Sentencing Project
In Mississippi, nearly 1 of every 10 adults is disenfranchised due to a felony conviction—more than triple the national rate.
publications
January 31, 2018

Top Trends in State Criminal Justice Reform, 2017

In recent years a number of states have enacted reforms designed to reduce the scale of incarceration and impact of the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. This briefing paper describes key reforms undertaken in 2017.