Politics, United States

Disenfranchisement Laws

(Ex-Convicts protesting for voting rights)

Many convicted felons today can’t vote because of Disenfranchisement laws. What if these laws were made to keep African Americans from voting? This is how convicted felons felt during Reconstruction and today in America. A felony is when someone is convicted of a crime involving violence which could lead to a year in prison or more. Many people believe that ex-convicts shouldn’t be allowed to vote, since they have committed crimes against our society. Yet some people believe it to be unconstitutional and racist to not allow convicts to vote. The reason why these laws were legal was because of Reconstruction to rid African Americans of their right to vote. This is just one of the hardships African Americans had to go through during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. This shows how Disenfranchisement laws are unconstitutional and racist.

Disenfranchisement laws started after the Civil War during 1865 to 1877 this was called the Reconstruction era. During this time period America wanted to help African Americans after slavery. They did this by passing laws in legislation like the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment which abolished slavery, gave them the right to vote, and deemed African Americans as citizens of the United States. People who were racist against African Americans didn’t agree with these changes. So to oppress African Americans they created similar ways of slavery like sharecropping. Sharecropping is when an owner of land gives it to someone in return as rent. Since African Americans didn’t have jobs they went back to their masters for food and a place to stay. This forced them to work until they paid their debt. Then eventually they passed laws saying that any person convicted of a felony could not have the ability to vote. These were called Disenfranchisement laws, which made police target African Americans so that they couldn’t vote. Which makes these Disenfranchisement laws racist for the sake of not allowing a person to vote based on the color of their skin.

(Farrakhan v. Gregoire)

This eventually led to, “about 2.5% of the adult US population, 6.1 million voters, are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction. Because the US disproportionately convicts people of color, this sort of disenfranchisement can have crucial political and social consequences.” (Qz magazine) This amount of voters could change the outcome of elections in states and in congress. This is why it is important not to oppress convicts after they have served their time. These laws wouldn’t have been legal if it wasn’t for Reconstruction. During this time African Americans believed it to have been worse than slavery. Since Southerners or members of the Klu Klux Klan wanted to oppress African Americans of their natural rights like pursuit of happiness, speech, and voting. Even though the fifteenth amendment protects convicts, “The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous account of servitude.” (15th Amendment ) This means that no one, no matter what race or crime they have commit should not be denied of their basic rights. This makes it unconstitutional to deny convicts of their right to vote. There was even a court case going against Gregoire fighting for equal voting rights of convicts. “Farrakhan v. Gregoire challenges Washington state’s law that disenfranchises individuals in prison, parole and probation from voting. Plaintiffs assert that the law denies the right to vote on account of race. In January, 2010, the Ninth Circuit held that Washington’s criminal disenfranchisement law does in fact violate the Voting Rights Act.” (Brennan Center for Justice) If these laws do go against the voting rights act why does congress not change this? Why does the government not fix a mistake that we made back during Reconstruction? Which was a worse of time for African Americans than during slavery. If congress fixes this mistake that we have made then society and convicts could have a great benefit from this.

With this idea in mind, each state in the United States have different laws in which they have different ideals when it comes to felons having the right to vote. A felon meaning that have committed a crime that is unlawful. Out of the 50 states, there are 10 states that do not give back your rights once you become a felon according to Procon.org. These states consist of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, etc. With the other 40 states, felons can have their right to vote be restored but only through certain procedures. There are 20 states such as Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, and Arkansas where felons must complete their terms of incarceration, parole, and probation. There are only 4 states that give back votings rights with only the completion of a criminal’s term of incarceration and parole are California, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York. The only TWO states that allow felons to keep their voting rights are Maine and Vermont even if they are in prison. With each state having its own ideals of how felon voting should be dealt with, it shows that some states still want people to vote to make a difference on which laws or presidents are voted for.

It may seem like it’s only one person not being able to vote, but it is way bigger than that, even if that person is a criminal. That one person can turn into 6.1 million of those criminals who do not have the right to vote. To some, it may seem that felons could vote in negative way to effect the options, but overall every single vote counts. By letting felons vote, it gives them the opportunity to vote for things that are truthfully right and moral that could even help you as a citizen in this American society. It is good that there are states that give the option to many people to earn back their rights. With all this being said, felons no matter what color of skin or sexual orientation should be able to vote or be able to earn their rights back. People nowadays should now noticed that this does greatly affect today’s society with voting and can be fixed with the younger generation of the US by making laws that help every citizen’s vote matter who lives in the country; no matter if they are a non-criminal or a criminal. Disenfranchisement laws should be abolished or taken away because it is proven that these laws are indeed unconstitutional and racist.

Artilce by Vincent Sinclair and Grant Friesen

Works Cited

“State Felon Voting Laws – Felon Voting – ProCon.org.” Should Felons Be Allowed to Vote?, felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000286.

“Voting as an Ex-Offender.” Nonprofit Vote, www.nonprofitvote.org/voting-in-your-state/special-circumstances/voting-as-an-ex-offender/.

“Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments – Felon Voting – ProCon.org.” Should Felons Be Allowed to Vote?, felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000283.

“Felon Voting – ProCon.org.” Should Felons Be Allowed to Vote?, felonvoting.procon.org/.

Kozlowska, Hanna. “What Would Happen If Felons Could Vote in the US?” Quartz, Quartz, 6 Oct. 2016, qz.com/784503/what-would-happen-if-felons-could-vote/.

Boundless. “The Grant Administration.” The Grant Administration | Boundless US History, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/the-grant-administration/.                                               

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