10 Ways the U.S. Has Kept Citizens From Voting

Banning Felons From Voting
Former prisoners demonstrate at a rally for felon voting rights in Baltimore, Maryland. The state changed its law so that felons got their voting rights back after serving their prison sentences instead of having to complete parole and probation as well. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Florida is not the only state restricting felons from voting. As many as 5.8 million Americans of voting age can't cast a ballot, because they live in states that bar anyone with a criminal record from voting, even after they have served their sentences. About 2.2 million of those disenfranchised voters are African-American, and critics of felon disenfranchisement laws say that they disproportionately hurt black turnout, since blacks are convicted and sent to prison at twice the rate of the overall U.S. population [source: Simpson].

In 2016, just two states allow prisoners to vote. Most of the rest allow them to vote after their sentence is served; after the sentence and parole time are served; or after sentence, parole and probation are up. In another 11 states, convicted felons automatically lose their rights to vote and may only get it back if the crime was not on murder or rape; by appealing to the state governor or some other variable [source: ProCon].

However, this is one vote-suppressing restriction that slowly is giving way. Over the last two decades, about two dozen states have changed their laws and enabled more people with criminal convictions to regain their rights. As a result, about 800,000 Americans are now able to vote again [source: Simpson].

Author's Note: 10 Ways the U.S. Has Kept Citizens From Voting

This was an interesting assignment for me, because back in the 1990s, I covered politics, and wrote a couple of feature stories for George, the magazine edited by John F. Kennedy Jr.

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