In Florida alone, about a million citizens of voting age will be prohibited from voting this year — and for the rest of their lives. Florida is one of four states (Kentucky, Iowa and Virginia are the others) in which felons and former felons are banned from voting. In all, 29 states take voting rights away from felons who are out on probation or parole, and every state but Maine and Vermont bans voting from felons currently incarcerated.
Of the millions of disenfranchised voters, an estimated 36% are black. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld disenfranchisement laws in 1974, deciding that are not overtly racist (though they later struck down an Alabama law allowing disenfranchisement for “moral turpitude,” ruling that this was an overt means of denying blacks the vote).
So we’re dealing with three issues here: should felons be deprived of the right to vote? should a law be considered racist if it disproportionately affects members of one race? and should this be a state-by-state decision at all?
© 2012 by Bill Bickel unless otherwise noted.