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More than 6 million citizens will be ineligible to vote in the midterm elections in November 2018 because of a felony conviction. Nearly 4.7 million of them are not incarcerated but live in one of 34 states that prohibit voting by people on probation, parole, or who have completed their sentence. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system also translate into higher rates of disenfranchisement in communities of color, resulting in one of every thirteen African American adults being ineligible to vote.
Despite these stark statistics, in recent years significant reforms in felony disenfranchisement policies have been achieved at the state level. Since 1997, 23 states have amended their felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility. These reforms include:
- Seven states either repealed or amended lifetime disenfranchisement laws
- Six states expanded voting rights to some or all persons under community supervision
- Seventeen states eased the restoration process for persons seeking to have their right to vote restored after completing sentence
These policy changes represent national momentum for reform of restrictive voting rights laws. As a result of the reforms achieved during the period from 1997-2018, an estimated 1.4 million people have regained the right to vote. This report provides a state by state accounting of the changes to voting rights for people with felony convictions and measures its impact. These changes have come about through various mechanisms, including legislative reform, executive action, and a ballot initiative.
1.4 million people have regained the right to vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement reforms