Felony voting disenfranchisement has persisted in America despite praiseworthy attempts to address it. Efforts to find solutions require greater understanding of the problem. A new report by Common Cause titled “Zero Disenfranchisement: The Movement to Restore Voting Rights is a step in this direction.
The report looks at the impact of denying the right to access the poll to people who have a past of felony conviction and proposes solutions to the problem that are surprisingly common sense. According to David Vance,
[The report] documents the racist history of felony disenfranchisement laws, the new movement to repeal them, and provides several personal stories of individuals affected by these voter suppression efforts.
“The right to vote is a cornerstone of our American democracy and the birthright of all American citizens. No one should ever have it taken away,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “This new report will help all Americans understand how we can work together to ensure all citizens have a voice in our elections.”
The report outlines how felony disenfranchisement laws were expanded during the Civil War, were exploited extensively to suppress black voting in the Jim Crow South, and continued to be felt disproportionately by minority and low-income communities through the War on Drugs era and beyond. Today millions of people continue to be disenfranchised due to prior felony convictions, including nearly 50% of those who have already completed their sentences. The new report paints a bleak picture of the impact the United States’ mass incarceration crisis is having on democratic participation.
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