Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, on her weekly podcast with Dennis Moynihan, Breaking the Sound Barrier, describes felony disenfranchisement as a “deficit in our democracy,” and examines how these policies are yet another vehicle for voter suppression on a vast scale. They are, she states, an “attack on the right to vote, and in particular, the wholesale disenfranchisement of close to 5 million Americans, mostly people of color.”
Laws vary from state to state. Maine and Vermont actually allow prisoners to vote, but, as of 2014, according to The Sentencing Project, every other state and the District of Columbia have some form of disenfranchisement as a consequence of a felony. In 12 states, the right to vote is stripped permanently. That means even when people have served their sentence and paid their debt to society, they can never vote again. These states are Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
According to a 2002 study by sociologists Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza, “If disenfranchised felons in Florida had been permitted to vote, Democrat Gore would certainly have carried the state, and the election.” The Sentencing Project, in a 2014 report, summarized, “Nationwide, one in every 13 black adults cannot vote as the result of a felony conviction, and in three states—Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia—more than one in five black adults is disenfranchised.”
Listen to the podcast or read the full transcript on Democracy Now!.