When it comes to the U.S. laws governing the right to vote, a staggering 5.85 million Americans are prevented from voting due to prior felony convictions, The Sentencing Project reports.
The current U.S. justice system is a retributive model. In other words, when a crime has been committed it is against the state though it happened to a citizen.
The argument some ex-felons are making is that after finishing their sentences, they should not be punished further when returning to society. If their debt has been paid through incarceration, then most of their rights should also be restored.
Adding to the problem of disenfranchisement is the disproportionality in which people of color are affected. One in every 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised. That is four times more than non-African Americans are. Though disenfranchisement numbers vary across racial groups, the inability to participate in the voting process has a huge negative impact on the communities where people of color are the dominate population.
The numbers presented represent the best assessment of the state of felon disenfranchisement as of December 2010, the most recent year for which complete data is available, according to sociologists Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota and Jeff Manza of New York University.
The data covering disenfranchisement shows an estimated 1.17 million people disenfranchised in 1976, 3.34 million in 1996, and more than 5.85 million in 2010, according to the report. Every state has its own exclusive voting laws.
Many states have addressed this issue by implementing state felony disenfranchisement reform. The state of Maryland, which once had a very strict lifetime ban on voting for ex-felons, has now repealed that ban. Other states have also revised their voting protocols for ex-felons, allowing these men and women to regain some of their civil rights.
Typically, some mechanisms are put into place to revise disenfranchisement laws. However, narrowing down these mechanisms is very difficult to do, as it is hard to obtain consistent data pertaining to revision.
However, Maine and Vermont are now the only two states allowing its prisoners to vote. They are in line with our neighbors to the north. Canada allows all of its inmate population the right to vote, giving them a voice in all government elections and bills.