National: Why 10% of Florida Adults Can’t Vote: How Felony Convictions Affect Access to the Ballot | The New York Times

One of every 40 American adults cannot vote in November’s election because of state laws that bar people with past felony convictions from casting ballots. Experts say racial disparities in sentencing have had a disproportionate effect on the voting rights of blacks and Hispanics. A report by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization focused on criminal justice reform, estimates that 6.1 million Americans will not be allowed to vote next month because of these laws. State laws that bar voting vary widely. Three swing states — Florida, Iowa and Virginia — have some of the harshest laws; they impose a lifetime voting ban on felons, although their voting rights can be restored on a case-by-case basis by a governor or a court. On the other end of the spectrum, Maine and Vermont place no restrictions on people with felony convictions, allowing them to vote while incarcerated.

Florida: Ex-felons Struggle to Regain Their Voting Rights | The Intercept

The remnants of Hurricane Patricia were sweeping over Orlando, Florida, and Eddie Walker was soaked. It was a Wednesday morning in late October, and Walker, the pastor of In God’s Time Tabernacle, located in the downtown neighborhood of Parramore, had spent part of his morning repairing a jammed window in the white 2001 Chevrolet van that he uses to transport food donations from grocery stores and fast food restaurants across the city to his parishioners, many of whom are homeless or recovering drug addicts. When I found Walker behind his church, he beckoned me out of the rain and into the van’s cab. Walker is barrel-chested and of medium height, and his voice carries with a pastor’s booming resonance, even when he speaks quietly. I’d come to hear Walker’s life story, but from the start his cellphone continuously interrupted our conversation. Volunteers were calling to troubleshoot logistics. “Anything that you can get and you don’t have to pay for,” Walker pleaded into his phone, “order as much as you can, ’cause we can use all of it.”

Iowa: ACLU lawsuit challenges Iowa voting rules | Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Iowa’s tough policies that bar felons from voting, seeking to restore the right to thousands of former offenders before the 2016 presidential election. The case aims to end confusion over rules that followed a 2011 policy change by Gov. Terry Branstad and a criminal investigation into people who improperly voted. Iowa is among three states where felons cannot vote after completing their sentences unless their rights are restored by the governor. “The widespread denial of voting rights on the basis of a felony conviction is the single biggest denial of civil rights in Iowa. It has kept thousands of Iowans from voting,” ACLU attorney Rita Bettis said. “We’re very excited about this case and its potential to right a tremendous wrong.” One of them, stay-at-home mother Kelli J. Griffin of Montrose, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I believe I am a productive member in society and that I deserve to vote,” she said. “So do other felons who have turned their lives around.”

Editorials: 6 Million Americans Without a Voice | New York Times

The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy, yet nearly six million Americans are denied that right, in many cases for life, because they have been convicted of a crime. Some states disenfranchise more than 7 percent of their adult citizens. In an unflinching speech before a civil rights conference Tuesday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. described this shameful aspect of our justice system for what it is: a “profoundly outdated” practice that is unjust and counterproductive. State laws that disenfranchise people who have served their time “defy the principles — of accountability and rehabilitation — that guide our criminal justice policies,” Mr. Holder said in urging state lawmakers to repeal them. “By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes.”