Rules surrounding voting rights for felons may be under review by the new Democratic Party Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy. A great article on the NJ felon vote was recently written by Jack Smith IV, the senior writer covering technology and inequality for Mic Daily. He revealed, “In 2018, two New Jersey state senators will begin the work necessary to restore voting rights to those serving time in prison for a felony conviction.” Hopes are high for a solution soon.
The cause for change is particularly apparent in New Jersey. A landmark report by Scott Novakowski of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice also found that not only are there are some 100,000 New Jersey residents who could potentially regain voting right, of those, “almost 73,000 – of those denied the right to vote are living in the community on parole or probation”. This is unusually for the country as a whole. Felony voting laws are determined separately by each state.
Felon voting rights remain a controversial reform among many but a key revelation from the report is that mass incarceration of African-Americans is historically tied to felon voting restrictions. The Novakowski report explains this in a dramatically detailed history of the issue in New Jersey. An important summation of the result of these policies is here:
New Jersey’s decision to maintain its disfranchisement law in the face of decades of racially discriminatory criminal justice policies led to a dramatic increase in the number of Black people who have lost their voting rights and a corresponding reduction in the political power of Black communities.
See more on this subject at either Democracy Chronicles felon voting or African-American Voting Rights. Also see our main section on American Democracy and our Voter Access articles focusing more broadly on the ease of voting and the various barriers in the way.
Another state that restricts voting rights for felons is Minnesota. The following YouTube video is hosted by Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey and is a discussion that “looks at Minnesota’s policy of restoring the vote to felons only after they are ‘off paper,’ how felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects minorities, and how other states deal with felony voting differently.” The video is about 30 minutes long. Take look: