Felony Restrictions

Felon Voting Rights

If you are convicted of a felony, or even a misdemeanor, you may play hell trying to get your voting rights restored, your success depending very much on which state that you were convicted in. Some states make it easy and even automatic to have your voting rights restored, while others put the whammy on you forever more.

States That You Do Not Want to Get Convicted In
Mississippi, along with 11 other states, permanently bar felons from voting. The rationale is that bad judgment has been displayed by these individuals, which proves them unfit to choose the leaders of this nation. Other states allow felons to vote once they have served their time.

In some states, this is automatic; in other states the former felon must apply for reinstatement of voting rights. Ten states and the District of Columbia have voting restrictions in regard to those convicted of misdemeanors.

The Disenfranchised??????
Nearly 5 million American citizens can't vote because they are barred from doing so due to their felony records. Those banned include prison inmates in 48 states; parolees, in 33 states; probationers in 29 states, as well as those who are off of parole and otherwise considered free citizens. Thirteen percent of African American men in this country are unable to vote due to felony convictions.

Civil War
If you are under the impression that the United State's original plan was to refuse felons the right to vote, think again. In 1800, felons could vote in all of the states; however, that changed right before the Civil War when a majority of states, amounting to 80 percent, blocked felons from voting, the rationale behind this was to bar African Africans, who were disproportionately represented among those convicted of felonies, from voting.

Hot Issues
There are two hot issues at hand: Allowing ex-felons to vote and allowing those who are incarcerated to vote. A reasonable argument against not allowing incarcerated felons to vote is that they have temporarily forfeited a variety of rights, one of them being the right to vote.

Extending, Rather than Restricting, the Vote
On the other hand, extending rights to many, rather to a few, has been the American way. The vote was extended to women in 1920; to non-whites in 1870; to those unwilling or unable to pay a poll tax in 1964 and to those over the age of 18 in 1971.

Of course, people of color and women should never have been excluded in the first place. They did not break the law. Their only "violation" being that they were born non-white or female. These non-whites and females were not, necessarily, living on the taxpayers' dole, as are prisoners. The exclusion of non-whites and women from voting was not based on crimes being committed but on a patriarchal as well as misogynist and racist system.

14th Amendment
The 14th Amendment allows states to deny the vote if an individual is found guilty of "participation in rebellion or another crime." And it can surely be argued that prisoners should not be allowed to vote based on this amendment. However, it's another story altogether when it comes to ex-felons who have done their time, paid for their crime.

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