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					Breaking Barriers to
  the Ballot Box:
 An Overview of Felony
   Voting is the most fundamental
        right in a democracy.

“The right to vote freely for the candidate
   of one’s choice is of the essence of a
 democratic society, and any restrictions
   on that right strike at the heart of
      representative government.”

    - Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 556 (1964)
         US.. Supreme Court Ruling
     Felony disfranchisement strips
         millions of that right.

 Laws in 48 out of 50 states prevent some or
  all people with felony convictions from voting.

 5.3 million people in the U.S. cannot vote
  because of felony convictions.

 As the incarceration rate rises, so does the
  disfranchised population.
State felony disfranchisement policies.
Felony disfranchisement laws range widely in
scope and severity. Of the 50 states:

 2 states permanently ban all people with felony
  convictions from voting.
 8 states permanently ban people with certain
  felony convictions from voting.
 20 states ban all people with felony convictions
  from voting until they have completed their
  sentences (including prison, parole and
 5 states ban all people with felony conviction
  from voting while in prison or on parole.
 13 states ban people with any felony convictions
  from voting while incarcerated.
 Maine and Vermont allow everyone to vote.
The disfranchisement policies of several states
share a history of racial prejudice.

 The 15th Amendment passed in 1870 banned race-based
 Southern states began using criminal disfranchisement
  and other policies to rollback this expansion of the
  franchise. Though purportedly race-neutral, many
  disfranchisement laws were tailored to principally affect
 By the early 20th century, former Confederate states
  prohibited nearly all their black citizens from voting. In
  other states, 10 times as many blacks voters as white
  voters were barred.
 Although Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965
  to reinforce the 15th Amendment, felony disfranchisement
  laws remained legal and began to multiply.
 1850: 35% of states had felony disfranchisement
 2008: 95% of states have felony disfranchisement
Felony disfranchisement continues to
overwhelmingly impact minorities.

 Felony disfranchisement laws prevent 1.4
  million or 13% of all black men in the
  U.S. from voting.
 In 5 states that disfranchise people with
  felony convictions, 1 in 4 black men are
  permanently disfranchised.
 In New York, over 16 times as many
  Latino voters are disfranchised as white
Breaking down felony disfranchisement

 MYTH: Felony disfranchisement laws
  disproportionately impact people of color because
  they commit more crimes.

 FACT: Several studies have shown that law
  enforcement agencies engage in the practices of
  selective enforcement and racial profiling. People of
  color are policed, arrested, charged, prosecuted and
  convicted at considerably higher rates than the
  population at large, leading to the disparity in
  disfranchisement rates.
Breaking down felony disfranchisement

 MYTH: Restoring the vote is a partisan attempt to
  increase the power of the Democratic party.

 FACT: Felony disfranchisement is a non-partisan
  issue about everyone’s right to vote that attracts
  support from Republicans and Democrats.
    As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed a bill into law
     eliminating the two-year waiting period before people who had
     completed their sentences could vote.
    Florida’s permanent disfranchisement policy was modified in
     2007 by Republican Governor Charlie Crist.
Felony disfranchisement laws are
excessively punitive.

 Many felony convictions are
 for relatively minor,
 nonviolent drug offenses.
 Denying the vote to people
 with such convictions –
 sometimes permanently – is
Poor administration of existing
 Those in charge of administering felony
  disfranchisement policies are often unaware
  of them and dispense incorrect information.

 In most states, individuals with felony
  convictions do regain the right to vote at
  some point, but confusion about state law
  and eligibility hinders them from registering
  to vote, disfranchising eligible voters.
The United States has among the harshest
felony disfranchisement laws of any

 Democracies from Canada to Israel to
  South Africa allow everyone, prisoners
  included, to vote.
 In 2006, the United Nations Human Rights
  Committee called for the U.S. to restore
  the vote to people upon release from
Few other democracies disfranchise their citizens after
completion of their sentences. In Europe, permitting people to
vote even while incarcerated is the norm.
It is only fair to allow people
leaving prison to vote.

  74% of those affected by felony
 disfranchisement laws are currently living in
 their communities, working, supporting
 families, and paying taxes.

 Yet they remain second-class citizens
 who do not have a voice in their
Restoring the vote enhances
public safety.

People with felony convictions who vote are:

 More likely to give to charity, attend school
  board meetings, volunteer and be engaged with
  the community.
 Over 50% less likely to be re-arrested
  than those who do
  not vote.
Restoring the vote enhances
public safety.
“We’ve got record numbers of people who’ll be
 coming home this year: 600,000 people--
 that’s over half a million people! And when
 we’ve got those kinds of numbers, we need to
 fully engage those people in being good

         ~Gwendolyn C. Chunn
         American Correctional Association
Several prominent organizations and
individuals have expressed support for
felon enfranchisement policy reform.

   American Correctional Association
   American Probation and Parole Association
   United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
   The National Black Police Association and the National
    Latino Officers Association of America
   American Bar Association
   Two National Commissions on Federal Election Reform
   Presidents George W. Bush, Carter, Clinton and Ford
   Politicians from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to Gov.
    Charlie Crist (R-FL) to Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL)
The public overwhelmingly supports
restoring the vote—even for people still
serving their sentences.

80% believe people who have
 completed their sentences should have
 the right to vote.

Over 60% believe that people on
 probation or parole should have the right
 to vote.
Momentum for reform.

In the last decade,
reforms in 17 states have
restored the vote to over
700,000 people.

In 1997, there were ten states that
disfranchised people with felony
convictions for life. Today there are
only two.
Strategies for change.

Litigation                       Legislation

      Public Education and Organizing
The right to vote is fundamental.

    For the 5.3 million Americans who
    still cannot vote, as Martin Luther
    King, Jr. once put it,
         “A right delayed is
          a right denied.”
Thank you for joining the ACLU
        in this fight.

       For more information, please