The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States

What is your stance?
Determined+protesters+fighting+for+their+rights+to+vote+like+any+other+U.S.+citizen
Michael Fleshman, Creative commons
Determined protesters fighting for their rights to vote like any other U.S. citizen

The right to vote is an integral part of America but for roughly 4.6 million Americans their right to vote has been limited or denied completely. Why? Because of felon disenfranchisement laws, laws that stop felons from voting either permanently or under certain circumstances. 

Felon disenfranchisement is decided on a state level, and states are becoming more and more divided on the topic. Currently, some states are loosening their laws and others are tightening them. Felons can not vote while in prison in 23 states but can vote once out of prison even on parole. In 14 states Felons have to serve their sentence, parole/probation, and pay any fees or fines to vote. 

 

In eleven states, felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes, or require a governor’s pardon for voting rights to be restored, face an additional waiting period after completion of sentence (including parole and probation) or require additional action before voting rights can be restored.

— The National Conference of State Legislation

You can read more about each state’s laws here

People arguing for felon’s voting rights often point to the racist history of these laws and how they currently affect minority groups. As of 2016 1 in 13 African Americans could not vote because of these laws. So while America is currently not trying to prevent African Americans from voting, felon disenfranchisement is negatively affecting the African American community. 

People arguing for stricter voting rights point to the fact that felon disenfranchisement started before the Civil War. They say disenfranchisement laws started as a way to stop people with bad morals from voting and not racism. The idea boils down to: if someone can not follow the laws why should they help make them? 

While the first argument may look convincing on the surface, there is no denying the racist origin of these laws.  The history of disenfranchisement law traces back to before the Civil War when states started enacting various levels of criminal disenfranchisement to ensure a “moral voting pool”. Generally, these laws were just poorly disguised attempts at stopping African Americans from even trying to vote. Entering into the Jim Crow era states often had very confusing and strict voting rules to stop Black people from voting. In 1920 only three states had no form of felon voting restrictions.

Many states are removing their stricter disenfranchisement laws and are moving towards just removing felon’s right to vote when they are in prison. In the next few years, you can expect to see many more changes in laws around voting rights, and discussions about the topic are not going anywhere.

So, do you think that felons should get the right to vote? 

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About the Contributor
Abria Joshua, Staff Writer & Senior Copy Editor
Hi, My name is Abria Joshua! I’m currently a sophomore at Gateway and it is my first year here. I am in the book club, mock trial, stage crew, and the senior copy editor for The Chomp! Outside of school, this is my third year doing team policy debate through NCFCA. I want to go into something science or politics related to hopefully work in conservation. I love all things reading, art, and animals!
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    JoshFeb 13, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Another big part of the problem is disparity in sentencing. Many of those who are convicted of a felony lacked the means for private, experienced legal defense. Those who committed similar crimes, but had quality legal counsel, were more likely to be allowed plead guilty to misdemeanors, or have their prosecutions deferred altogether.

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    • A

      Abria JoshuaFeb 14, 2024 at 11:51 am

      You are totally right! Unfortunately, the disparity in our prison system, especially the federal prison system, runs deep. The effects of this means that generally lower income individuals lose their right to vote while higher income individuals can still vote. It is a shame that this exists and I am glad that other people are aware of the problems in our justice system.

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