The Issue of Voting for Ex-convicts in The United States

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About this sample


Words: 1068 |

Page: 1|

6 min read

Published: Sep 14, 2018

Words: 1068|Page: 1|6 min read

Published: Sep 14, 2018

It is estimated that more than 4 million Americans cannot practice their right to vote because of they have been linked to past felony convictions. The irony is that they are free because the government believes that they have transformed but still it denies them the chance to participate in changing the society they belong to. This can all be blamed to some outdated laws some linked to the Jim Crow system that keeps the minority from the polls. Surprisingly, the ban on voting for ex-convicts could last a lifetime. In Florida for example, many African American men are alienated for life. Such laws are coercive and they diminish the democracy of the citizens. They also make it hard for the reintegration of post convicts back to the society and make them more vulnerable to getting back to crime. Criminal reform advocates and policy makers have observed that denying ex-convicts their voting rights is connected to the high rate of imprisonment and shows that America is not ready to give people a second chance even after they change their behavior.

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Voting is a fundamental part of our democracy; one could even argue the bedrock of it. Felony disenfranchisement is one of the longest running and most widely accepted form of voter suppression that exists today. Once a person’s debt to society is paid, is it acceptable to still deny them fundamental rights such as voting? And if so, how? Some states say yes to that question, and one of those punishments is the loss of their right to vote. Advocates all over America are coming together to challenge these laws in court. Arguing that once that debt to society is paid, we must allow them to fully integrate back into society.

By definition, felony disenfranchisement is the act of suspending or withdrawing a person’s right to vote because they have been convicted of a crime. This act is not solely limited to felons, the laws vary from state to state. However, felons are unanimously barred from voting in any state that has laws regarding a convicted criminal’s voting right.

The way the 14th amendment is written protects the rights of states to disenfranchise felon voters. The founding fathers give one instance a state may revoke ones right to vote and that is “except for participation in rebellion, or other crime”. This then allows states to start pulling men that are of voting age from the pool of eligible voters under the clause of “other crimes”.

Felony disenfranchisement disproportionally affects the African American community. The timing of these laws holds some significance as well. Having been established during the same time as African American men’s voting rights were being considered has led some to believe that this was an attack on those rights. (Wikipedia) African American men are incarcerated at a much higher rate than any other group of men, which leads them to also be the most affected by felony disenfranchisement. 1 out of every 16 African American adults are currently disenfranchised because of their prior conviction of a crime. That is a rate that is 3.7% higher than any other race. Overall, 1 out of every 44 American’s who are eligible to voting are currently being disenfranchised.

So, who is voter disenfranchisement helping? It doesn’t seem to be helping exciute on the idea of a fair democratic process. There seems to offer no benefit to society, and they do not protect anyone or anything. These laws exist strictly to be a reason to revoke a person’s right to vote. According to the research done by Edward Burmillia, "Because of the widespread belief that higher turnout benefits Democrats, electoral rules like the extent of early voting availability, the number of polling places and their hours, Voter ID requirements, and felon disenfranchisement have become another policy area in which the parties are clearly polarized." While there is no exact political science supporting what appears to be an attempt by the Republican party to disenfranchise voters, there is evidence that shows that they are a party that tends to favor these kinds of laws. They also do well politically in states that have stricter voting laws including all around and including the laws that apply to felons voting rights.

The laws that govern this form of voter suppression vary from state to state. They also vary in many different ways. States can have different requirements for the person to meet before voting, and even different laws on what crimes can get your voting rights taken away for life. In Florida for example, after voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing felons the right to vote, lawmakers moved to require felons to pay off all debts associated with their incarceration. Some activist argued that this was a “poll tax” and should not be allowed, a federal judge agreed and deemed the law unconstitutional. Some states are moving to remove these laws and some already have.

Voter disenfranchisements laws are often complex and leave most people confused. If you are unable to pay off the heavy penalties, or you fail to follow the complicated provisions perfectly, you will not have the right to vote reinstated in most states. These laws are examples of what modern day voter suppression looks like, and also that it is working. These laws appear to be set up to be complicated for a reason, and that reason is to deter voters. To actively try and deter voters by making voting complicated is to be a participant in voter suppression.

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An act has been presented before congress that will allow individuals to vote in national polls straight after prison. The simple rule that the act revolves on is that when you live in a community, you have the right to vote for your leader regardless of all factors. Some states have also revised their policies and granted voting rights to citizens with criminal records. The country as a whole has had slow momentum in reforming the laws that marginalize people with felony records. In the past 2 decades only 20 states have made it easier for citizens to regain their voting rights. This has succeeded after persuasion from faith leaders, elected officials and advocates. Criminal reformers also believe that voting rights are smart policies that expand democracy to all citizens including ex-convicts. These laws need to continue to be challenged legally, and that is the only way we can take action against this form of voter suppression.

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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The Ban on Voting for Ex-Convicts in the United States. (2022, September 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
“The Ban on Voting for Ex-Convicts in the United States.” GradesFixer, 22 Sept. 2022,
The Ban on Voting for Ex-Convicts in the United States. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Apr. 2024].
The Ban on Voting for Ex-Convicts in the United States [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Sept 22 [cited 2024 Apr 22]. Available from:
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