Four states permanently disenfranchise ex-felons. In Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia, it takes a decree by the governor or a clemency board to restore a person’s voting rights, and only after a predetermined waiting period and all fines and fees are paid can an individual submit an application.
Seven other sates—Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming—allow some with felony convictions to vote after they are released from supervision. In Arizona, for example, one is not permanently disenfranchised until that person has committed two or more felonies, after which voting rights can only be regained through a pardon or restoration by a judge.
Many who are denied the right to vote are poor African-American or Latino.
With the November elections looming, voter suppression laws are very important to African-American students and the African-American community. According to The Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for voting rights, one in every 40 American adults is disenfranchised because of a felony conviction. The number of Americans who have lost their vote due to a conviction has spiked dramatically over the decades, from about 1.2 million in 1976 to 3.3 million in 1996, to more than 5.85 million in 2010, also according to a report from a group. Among African-Americans, one in 13 is denied rights because of prior convictions. Florida leads the nation with 1.5 million ex-felons who are denied rights.
Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, says, “When you marginalize all of these people, you make it much more difficult to rehabilitate them. It doesn’t serve anybody’s interest. We’re not talking about doing a favor for people that commit crimes. We’re trying to ensure that people can be taken back into the system, that they can become decent citizens again.”