On Election Day 2000 in Florida, in the midst of all the dimpled ballots and hanging chads, Thomas Johnson stayed home.
Johnson, the African American director of a Christian residential program for ex-offenders wanted to vote for George W. Bush, but was prevented by Florida law from doing so. In 1992, Johnson had been convicted of selling cocaine and carrying a firearm without a license in New York. After serving his sentence and moving to Florida in 1996, Johnson found that as an ex-felon he was barred from the voting booth. He was hardly alone in this situation, as at least 200,000 others in Florida who had theoretically “paid their debt to society” were also frozen out of the electoral process. Nationwide, four million Americans either serving a felony sentence or who had previously been convicted of a felony were also forced to sit out the election.
Published in Civil Rights Journal, this article provides an overview of the rationale underlying disenfranchisement policy, consequences of the practice, and the need for reform.
To read the article, download the PDF below.