The above graphic comes from the Prison Policy Initiative, and it shows the impact of summary disenfranchisement of adult-age ex-convicts in our political system, unique around the world. No other country disenfranchises ex-felons to the degree we do here in America. Prisoners pay their debt to society but their ability to have a voice in public policy forever goes silent. In all, 5.9 million Americans will be forced to sit out of the election because of a past felony offense. 2.6 million of those will have completed their sentence in full.
And this happens to be most acute in two key swing states: Virginia and Florida. 2/3 of those with old felony convictions who are barred from voting reside in those states, a total of two million potential voters. It represents 6% of the voting age population in Virginia and 9% in Florida. That’s easily enough to swing the election in these two close states. In Florida, you may recall, Charlie Crist restored some voting rights to ex-felons, and then Rick Scott quickly reversed them upon taking office.
This is truly disturbing. We fight tooth and nail against voter suppression of minority populations with lawsuits and public pressure, and yet this mass voter suppression of the most vulnerable population in America, a population that is overwhelmingly composed of people of color, goes virtually unnoticed.
You’re looking in this graphic at the New Jim Crow, the mass dislocation of a subset of Americans from society, exemplified here in voting rights but manifested in a whole host of other civil and economic rights as well.
The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement seeks to restore the franchise to ex-convicts in the states where they are still barred from voting. And there’s more from Mother Jones.