In Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming, once you’ve been convicted of a felony, you’ve lost the right to vote — for life. Delaware was on that list up until June, when they restored voting rights to all felons (other than murderers, sex offenders and those convicted of felony bribery) five years after the completion of their sentences. Massachusetts voters, on the other hand, will soon be voting on a bill that would take away the voting right of convicted felons.
In all, forty-six states plus the District of Columbia restrict the voting rights of felons in some manner.
The actual logic of taking away these voting rights is elusive: Keeping a child molester away from children after his sentence is complete makes sense. Not allowing an embezzler to work in a bank is logical. Taking away a murderer’s voting rights… well, I’m not sure what a murderer is doing released from prison in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there.
And of course, this being the United States, we can’t escape the racial angle: This year, one out of every eight Black men of voting age — 1.4 million in all — will be unable to vote. In Florida and Alabama, the figure is closer to one-third. Jesse Jackson refers to disenfranchisement as “taxation without representation”, and says it goes against what the civil rights movement stood for.