Imagine this, you get in trouble for stealing one time from a store, go to jail for a couple years, you come out as a changed person, and then the law tells you that you are not allowed to vote for your country’s president. Does that sound fair as an American? You make one mistake, learn your lesson, and then you lose one of the most important rights: the right to vote. One of the rights this country was based upon, a right our founding fathers gave us. This still takes place today in our society. Imagine that ten times worse back in the 1800’s. If someone was a black male and you went to vote, white officials would say that you committed a crime and would not allow you to vote. Even if the black male did nothing wrong that did not matter because these white people in charge of the polls would do anything to not let an African American male get the chance to vote. Voting rights should be equal for everyone, even felons because our society is based upon democracy and its time to give everyone their equal voting rights.
Understanding accurate U.S. history will assist tremendously in concluding a proper solution to this issue and coming up with a solution for this madness. In the late 1800s and 1900s white politicians passed various laws and rules in an attempt to restrict African Americans from voting. One way they did this was by poll taxes, putting unnecessary charges on Black males so they could not even afford to vote. The white officials did this because most African Americans had little to no money, so if there was a tax there was no way they could afford to vote. Poll taxes were a law that required everyone to pay all their taxes before they could vote, which most black males could not afford to pay their taxes. This excluded the majority of the black population at the time to be ineligible to vote since many African Americans worked in sharecropping which caused them to have little to no cash for taxes. Sharecropping was a form of slavery basically, it was when a slave had nothing so they went back to their old master for work. The old master would lend the slave a place to live, food, tools so the slave could work, and his own crops. In return, the slave had to work the rest of his life to pay off his debt because of all the equipment and resources the slave’s former master gave him. Another technique that was used for disenfranchisement were literacy tests. The U.S. government made tests that tested literacy and if someone did not pass they were not allowed to vote. This had a huge impact on African American disenfranchisement considering that forty to sixty percent of African Americans at the time were unable to read and write. Also in some states such as Alabama, they passed a law saying a male could no longer vote if their grandfather did not vote. For African Americans, their grandfathers were slaves at the time so there was no possible way they voted making it impossible for an African American to vote. As you can see, white officials made it nearly impossible for African Americans to vote by making them take literacy tests and also they had little to no money and could not afford to pay taxes. Overall it was very unlikely an African American was going to vote.
Over 130 years ago, the 15th amendment was passed saying that it was against the law to prohibit someone to vote because of their race. Having the knowledge about this, why should felons not be allowed to vote? According to an article published on Vocativ.com, 2.2 million African Americans were unable to vote because of this law in some of the states (King). This number would increase drastically if every state put this law into effect. With felons unable to vote it creates an unfair situation towards people who have committed a crime and now regret it. It also gives our great country a negative reputation for being unfair to different groups of people. In our own Declaration of Independence, it states that all men are created equal. Therefore, felons should be equal to everyone else in this country which would lead one to conquer that they should also have the right to vote.
Some people who come from the more conservative viewpoint may say that felons should most definitely not be allowed to vote. The main reasons for these people to think this is because felons do not know as much about politics, they lost their privilege to vote, or they do not want them to be able to vote since most felons have differing political opinions than them. Felons may not know as much as well educated people about politics but this does not mean they should not be able to vote. Also, the right to vote is most certainly not a privilege, it is a right. In the U.S. Constitution, it states numerous times, “the right to vote”. Lastly, it is not justified to create laws to restrict a large majority of a political party on their right to vote. This would give a tremendously unfair advantage to the more conservative parties in election years, which hurts their chances of getting the candidate they want to win to come out on top.
The purpose of these various measures, as the President of Alabama’s all-white 1901 constitutional convention explained, was within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution to establish white supremacy. The south would take measures so unfair just to deny a black male from voting. These acts in the east were extremely common. Felon disenfranchisement varies greatly from one state to the other. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated. In Florida, Iowa, and Virginia, felons and ex-felons permanently lose their right to vote. Virginia and Florida have other programs which do not take the right to vote away indefinitely but have other rules to suspend or restrict certain felons from voting. The remaining states each have their own approaches to the issue. As you can see it is still strict in some states today, and in others not so much. This is still not nearly as bad as what it was like for African Americans in the east in the 1900s.
Voting polls were brutal and unfair back in the day and should never have played out like how they did it was just absolutely awful. African Americans waited forever to vote went through slavery and all of the pain to get to they were and then got it all taken away through dumb rules killing one of the only rights they had. The right our founding fathers built this country around, the right to vote. At least today they evaluate the scenario and then decide if you could vote which is a lot fairer, how it use to be. Next time there is an election make sure to vote for the right for felons to vote.
Article by Ryan Rogers and Ryan Carpenter
Kousser, Morgan J. “Techniques of Direct Disenfranchisement.” Direct Disenfranchisement, 1880-1965, www.umich.edu/~lawrace/disenfranchise1.htm.
Rottinghaus, Brandon. “How Do US Felon Disenfranchisement Laws Compare to Those of Other Countries? – Felon Voting – ProCon.org.” Should Felons Be Allowed to Vote?, Procon,
King, James. “A Record Number Of Black People Can’t Vote Due To Convictions.” Vocativ, Vocativ, 7 Oct. 2016, www.vocativ.com/365545/rate-black-people-cant-vote-felony-