In order to strengthen democracy and address significant racial disparities, states must pass reforms establishing universal voting for people impacted by the criminal legal system.
5.2 million people in the United States are currently denied access to the vote because of a felony conviction. The number of people disenfranchised has grown, from 1.2 million in 1976, as a product of mass incarceration and supervision. Of people denied the vote, one in four (1,240,000) are currently incarcerated. While many states have expanded access to the vote for people who have completed their sentences, only DC has joined Maine, Vermont, and Puerto Rico by granting full voting rights to people in prison. In order to strengthen democracy and address significant racial disparities, states must pass reforms establishing universal voting for people impacted by the criminal legal system.
Voting laws excluded 5.2 million Americans from participating in the 2020 election, but some reforms are opening up our democracy to voices long silenced. The above video introduces you to four Americans eager to vote and gain their rights of citizenship.
Honoring April as Second Chance Month gives us an opportunity to check in on developments in voting rights and expanding the franchise to incarcerated voters. The Sentencing Project is working regularly with state and local campaigns to expand voting rights to justice impacted voters.
Thousands of people in federal custody or who have been released still face roadblocks that prevent them from gaining full access to the ballot box. The Sentencing Project's Keeda Haynes penned an op-ed in USA Today that highlights the importance of universal suffrage.