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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Extending, Rather than Restricting,
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.
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.