America has just replaced Russia as the world leader in its rate of incarceration and incarcerates far more prisoners than any other nation — nearly 2 million. In next week’s election, 4 million Americans will be locked out of the voting booth as a result of laws that disenfranchise persons convicted of a felony. In swing states such as Florida, where more than 600,000 persons are disenfranchised, these laws could directly affect the state’s electoral outcome. The racial disparities of the criminal justice system have led to 13 percent of African-American males being excluded from the electoral process. Ironically, 50 years after the beginnings of the civil rights movement, an increasing number of African Americans are excluded from the political process each year. We no longer have laws that require literacy tests or poll taxes, but the racially disproportionate results today resemble those of a hundred years ago.
- Marc Mauer, the Assistant Director of the Sentencing Project, and co-author of the report “Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States.”