Black Workers, Civil Rights

Felony Disenfranchisement Diminishes Black Voting Strength, but Black Prison Inmates Help Rural White Areas

By Frederick H. Lowe

Felony disenfranchisement, which prohibits individuals from voting although they have completed their prison sentences,  is a major obstacle to full black voting strength, according to a study published by the Joint Center  For Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D. C.-based think tank for African-American elected officials.

Map of states where former convicted felons cannot vote.
Map of states where former convicted felons cannot vote.

“Many states disenfranchise former offenders after they have completed their sentences, and as a result, 7.7% of black adults are disenfranchised nationally, including 22% of black adults in Kentucky and 23% in Florida,” according to report titled “50 Years Of The Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics,” which was published prior to the 50th Anniversary of  “Bloody Sunday” which took place on March 7, 1965 in Selma, Ala. The march led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C. -based organization that studies alternatives to prison, reports that an estimated 5.8 million individuals are prohibited from voting because they have a criminal record, including 1 of every 13 African-Americans.

The high incarceration rate of black men confined to prisons in rural areas, however, benefits the surrounding towns.

“By counting inmates as residents of the jurisdv. iction where they are incarcerated rather than residents of their home prior to incarceration, many states inflate the voting strength of populations who live near prisons (often rural areas) and diminish the voting strength of non-incarcerated people in the prisoners’ home communities,” the report’s authors wrote.


This is one of a series of articles concerning black voting rights based on the Joint Center study.



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