Voting rights for formerly incarcerated people

Voting rights for formerly incarcerated people

Voting rights activists and Republican officials across the country are battling over whether felons should have their voting privileges restored once they’ve served their punishments.

Why it matters: The tussle is largely partisan, with most Republicans opposing felons voting and Democrats — including those in Congress seeking a national standard for restoring felons to voting rolls — backing the idea as a key step toward rehabilitation.

  • A big reason for that divide: Felons are four times as likely as non-felons to be Democrats or politically unaffiliated, a 2019 study found. Only 20% of felons identified as Republicans after being released.
  • That’s made felon voting a key point of contention in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

Zoom in: Voting laws vary from state to state. All felons can vote in Maine, Vermont and D.C., for example.

  • But in Arizona, Wyoming, Iowa, Connecticut, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, voting rights are permanently taken away from those convicted of serious crimes such as murder and rape, or who have repeat felony convictions, according to the ACLU.
  • In all, more than 5.8 million convicted Americans — the vast majority felons but some with misdemeanor convictions — are prevented from voting.
  • The issue also is layered in racial politics: Black Americans, who make up about 12% of the U.S. population, account for about 40% of the felons who can’t vote.

Driving the news: The debate is playing out in courts, legislatures and governor’s mansions nationwide.

  • A federal appeals court panel ruled this month that Mississippi was violating the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment by disenfranchising people convicted of crimes such as murder, forgery and bigamy.
  • That ruling — which could restore voting rights to tens of thousands of people — followed a decision by the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court not to hear a case challenging Mississippi’s law on felon voting.
  • That case focused on whether the state Constitution’s voting law, written in the Jim Crow era, should be struck down because it was designed specifically to disenfranchise those convicted of crimes the Constitution’s authors thought African Americans were most likely to commit.

You can read the full article at Axios.