When we talk about a democracy, we talk about equality. Everyone with a voice. Our votes are one of the most powerful ways we can speak up today, and yet, over six million American citizens have lost their right to vote, essentially rendering them voiceless in our democracy.
“Don’t forget that our criminal justice system already targets our black population, and taking away the right to vote from the incarcerated just disenfranchises them even more. “ ~ Wall-of-Us
Throughout the history of our criminal justice system, it has been common practice to make convicted felons ineligible to vote. This varies tremendously state-by-state, with each state falling into one of four categories:
Felons lose their voting rights indefinitely
Felons lose their voting rights during incarceration and for a period of time after (usually during parole/probation)
Felons lose their voting rights ONLY while incarcerated
Felons NEVER lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated
Over the years, we have been making progress with states changing laws to move in the direction of categories 3 and 4. Currently, just Maine and Vermont maintain voting rights for all felons and 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, restore voting rights to felons automatically after incarceration.
There’s a great organization called the Sentencing Project that is working towards a fair and effective criminal justice system. Check out their work to see how your state deals with voting rights for felons and learn more on how you can help give a voice back to the voiceless.