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.
More Great Links
- Brammer, Jack. "Judge denies Grimes' request to stop GOP mailer." Lexington Herald Leader. Nov. 3, 2014. (April 8, 2016) http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/election/article44520252.html
- Brennan Center for Justice. "Ahead of 2016, Voting Wars Continue, But Momentum on Registration Reform." June 3, 2015. (April 8, 2016) http://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/ahead-2016-voting-wars-continue-momentum-registration-reform
- Broadwater, Luke. "Schurick guilty of election fraud in robocall case." Baltimore Sun. Dec. 6, 2011. (April 8, 2016) http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/breaking/bs-md-schurick-robocalls-verdict-20111206-story.html
- Christie, Bob and Van Velzer, Ryan. "Arizona Democrats Not Happy About Long Lines." Associated Press. March 24, 2016. (April 8, 2016) http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2016-03-24/arizona-democrats-say-long-poll-lines-suppressed-vote
- Conroy, Scott. "Florida Voter Purge Fiasco May Complicate Jeb Bush's Appeal To Minorities." Huffington Post. June 25, 2015. (April 8, 2016) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/25/jeb-bush-florida-voter-purge_n_7656764.html
- Davis, Aaron C. "Former Ehrlich Aide Paul Schurick gets 30 days in robocall case." Washington Post. Feb. 16, 2012. (April 8, 2016) https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post_now/post/former-ehrlich-aide-paul-schurick-gets-30-days-in-robocall-cas/2012/02/16/gIQA3n2pHR_blog.html?tid=a_inl
- DeSilver, Drew. "Anti-poll tax amendment is 50 years old today." Pew Research Center. Jan. 23, 2014. (April 8, 2016) http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/23/anti-poll-tax-amendment-is-50-years-old-today/
- Digital History. "The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876." (April 8, 2016) http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3109
- Goodwyn, Wade. "Despite Federal Court Rulings, Texas' Voter ID Laws Remain In Place." NPR. April 11, 2016. (April 12, 2016) http://www.npr.org/2016/04/11/473850580/despite-federal-court-rulings-texas-voter-id-laws-remain-in-place
- Government Accountability Office. "Issues Related to State Voter Identification Laws." Feb. 27, 2015. (April 8, 2016) http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665966.pdf
- Herbert, Bob. "Voting While Black." The New York Times. Aug. 20, 2004. (April 8, 2016) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/opinion/voting-while-black.html
- Hudson, Waymon. "Election 2012: Voter ID Laws, Suppression, and Equality." Huffington Post. Sept. 20, 2012. (April 8, 2016) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/waymon-hudson/election-2012-voter-id-laws-suppression-and-equality_b_1898613.html
- Keyssar, Alexander. "Voter Suppression Returns." Harvard Magazine. July-August 2012. (April 8, 2016) http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/07/voter-suppression-returns
- Lepore, Jill. "Rock, Paper, Scissors." New Yorker. Oct. 13, 2008. (April 12, 2016) http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/13/rock-paper-scissors
- National Park Service. "Civil Rights in America: Racial Voting Rights." 2009. (April 8, 2016) https://www.nps.gov/nhl/learn/themes/CivilRights_VotingRights.pdf
- Onion, Rebecca. "Take the Impossible "Literacy" Test Louisiana Gave Black Voters in the 1960s." Slate. June 23, 2013. (April 8, 2016) http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2013/06/28/voting_rights_and_the_supreme_court_the_impossible_literacy_test_louisiana.html
- Ourdocuments.gov. "Voting Rights Act (1965). (April 8, 2016) http://ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=100
- PBS. "Q&A: Southern Violence During Reconstruction." (April 8, 2016) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/reconstruction/40acres/sf_violence.html
- Ratcliffe, Daniel. "The Right to Vote and the Rise of Democracy." Journal of the Early Republic. Summer 2013. (April 8, 2016) http://jer.pennpress.org/media/26167/sampleArt22.pdf
- Simpson, Ian. "U.S. states giving more ex-felons voting rights back." Reuters. March 22, 2016. (April 8, 2016) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-politics-felons-idUSKCN0WO27H
- Sweeney, Dan, et al. "Florida among nation's toughest places to have voting rights restored." Sun-Sentinel.com. Jan. 25, 2015. (April 12, 2016) http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/sfl-felon-voting-rights-20150121-htmlstory.html
- University of Michigan. "Race, Voting Rights and Segregation: Direct Disenfranchisement." (April 8, 2016) http://www.umich.edu/~lawrace/disenfranchise1.htm
- U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election." (April 8, 2016) http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2000/report/exesum.htm
- Walker, Julian. "Phony Flyer Says Virginians Vote on Different Days." The Virginian-Pilot. Oct. 28, 2008. (April 8, 2016) http://pilotonline.com/news/phony-flier-says-virginians-vote-on-different-days/article_a2520c8e-3ccf-5f4b-9816-c34a85adf14d.html
- Walsh, Kenneth T. "Voting Rights Still a Hot Button Issue." U.S. News. Aug. 4, 2015. (April 8, 2016) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/08/04/voting-rights-still-a-political-issue-50-years-later
- Wilson, Reid. "Report: Voter ID laws reduce turnout more among African American and younger voters." Washington Post. Oct. 9, 2014. (April 8, 2016) https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/10/09/report-voter-id-laws-reduce-turnout-more-among-african-american-and-younger-voters/
Other countries besides the U.S. have electoral college systems. HowStuffWorks looks at some of them.