If advocates have their way, voting rights could be a new reality for the nation’s incarcerated. Full voting rights for felons is a hot topic in Washington. With new legislation moving through the Senate, a spotlight is being placed on the plight of prisoners who not only face electoral disenfranchisement behind bars but also have no way to participate once they return home. “While release may be granted, access is denied,” said Desmond Meade, an ex-offender who later became a leading felon-rights activist and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. As the Sentencing Project noted in its 2010 analysis, there were nearly 5.85 million Americans who were restricted from voting – 600,000 more than its research in 2004. That included 4 million already out in the community and completely barred from political participation. But a 2012 voter-turnout study by the George Mason University Elections Project found more than 6.8 million Americans combined who were either in prison, on probation, on parole or completely ineligible to vote because of felony convictions.
Not only does the U.S. penal population account for half of the more than 10 million prisoners in the world, but its number has increased a staggering 481 percent since 1976, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at the University of Essex.
Only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no restrictions on felon voting rights. In three of the states with restrictions – Florida, Kentucky and Virginia – the Sentencing Project estimates that 1 in 5 African-American adults are disenfranchised.
Full Article: A push for felon voting rights | CharlotteObserver.com.