3 States Restored Voting Rights to 1.4 Million People

Felony Disenfranchisement Reforms in 23 States Restored Voting Rights to 1.4 Million People

WASHINGTON, DC – As Florida voters consider an Election Day initiative to end the state's lifetime ban on voting for citizens with a felony record, a new report from The Sentencing Project finds that since 1997 changes to state felony disenfranchisement laws across the country have restored voting rights to 1.4 million people.

"Felony disenfranchisement reforms in 23 states have provided people across the country with a second chance at civic engagement and community building," said Morgan McLeod, author of Expanding the Vote: Two Decades of Felony Disenfranchisement Reform. “Lawmakers will be more responsive to the needs of communities impacted by mass incarceration when those communities have a stronger voice in our democracy.” 

The state changes have come about through various mechanisms, including legislative reform, executive action, and a ballot initiative. Reforms highlighted in the report include:

  • Alabama scaled back the number of crimes subject to disenfranchisement, impacting 76,000 people.
     

  • California restored voting rights to certain categories of people on community supervision and to those with felony convictions incarcerated in jail, impacting 95,000 people.
     

  • Maryland expanded voting rights to individuals on probation and parole, impacting 40,000 people.
     

  • Virginia's former-Governor Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to 173,000 people.

While these policy changes represent national momentum for reform of restrictive voting rights laws, more than 6 million citizens are still prohibited from voting due to a felony conviction. Nearly 4.7 million are not incarcerated but live in one of 34 states that prohibit voting by people on probation, parole, or who have completed their sentence. Florida accounts for more than a quarter of the disenfranchised population nationally, and nearly half of the post-sentence disenfranchised population.

A November ballot measure in Florida, Amendment 4, could restore voting rights to an additional 1.4 million people. Notably, more than one in five African Americans in Florida is disenfranchised due to a felony conviction. If approved by 60% of voters, Amendment 4 would amend the state constitution and restore voting rights to most individuals upon completion of their prison, probation or parole sentence.

"Floridians who've paid their full debt have earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities," said Desmond Meade, President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. "I look forward to the time when our laws reflect the values of our citizens."

Tomorrow, October 18th at 2 p.m. EST, The Sentencing Project and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition are hosting a webinar, Felony Disenfranchisement and the Midterm Elections. To participate, click here to register.

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