Nearly 6 million former prisoners –1 million of them black – will not be able to vote in the November presidential election because of state laws that continue to punish them even after they have completed their sentences, according to a recent report by the Sentencing Project. The report said 5.85 million formerly incarcerated citizens will be excluded. That’s five times the entire population of Rhode Island and more than the adult population of Virginia. “The most telling indicator of citizenship in the United States is that ability to cast a vote,” stated Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a non-profit group focused on restoring the civil rights of ex-offenders. “If you don’t have a voice you might as well be a slave.” He explained: “Every day a person is being disenfranchised in the minority community that weakens that community’s political voice.”
Eleven states disenfranchise ex-offenders after they have completed their sentences: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming. Those 11 states account for 45 percent of the entire disenfranchised population. The report also found that blacks lose their right to vote at a rate that is four times higher than non-blacks. If the presidential election were held today, more than 20 percent of blacks living in Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia wouldn’t be able to vote. Florida and Virginia are considered swing states in the presidential race.
Meade, a Florida native, served a prison sentence from 2001-04 for multiple crimes, the most serious being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. He won’t be able to vote in this year’s presidential election and maybe the next, because Florida has some of the toughest felon disenfranchisement laws on the books. Meade said Florida’s disenfranchisement laws basically amount to a lifetime ban from the polling booth for many ex-offenders. According to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, in Florida, an ex-felon automatically loses his or her civil rights and must apply to have those rights restored through the Board of Executive Clemency. That board consists of the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.
Full Article: The Charlotte Post – Death sentence on voting rights.