Giving Compass' Take:
- Travis Reginal and Jesse Jannetta explain the negative consequences of disenfranchisement, which disproportionately impacts Black Americans.
- How can philanthropy make an impact on this issue? What are the long-term consequences of failing to reverse these policies?
- Learn about a voter rights effort trying to help the disenfranchised.
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The Voting Rights Act of 1965, a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, outlawed many of the established legal barriers, but its impact has been reduced by another barrier that disproportionately affects African Americans: voting restrictions placed on people convicted of a felony.
Florida has been particularly aggressive in denying voting rights to people with felony convictions and is also home to one of the most substantial community-driven voting rights restoration efforts in recent history.
Fourteen percent of Florida’s adult population have a felony record, giving the state one of the largest concentrations of the approximately 6 million people in the United States with a felony record who cannot vote. Nearly 1 in 3 of those disenfranchised in Florida are black, significantly higher than the US average of 1 in 13. Floridians with a felony conviction must wait five to seven years after completing their sentence to apply for restoration of their voting rights.
Restoration of voting rights can have individual- and community-level effects. At the individual level, incarceration compromises the civic participation of justice-involved people by physically separating them from their communities, but this civic diminishment persists through restrictions on voting rights. The right to vote can have positive reintegration impacts for people returning to their communities from jail or prison.
At the community level, incarceration and justice involvement are physically concentrated, which means restrictions on civic participation in general, and voting rights specifically, are also geographically concentrated.
Citizens’ ability to participate in the democratic process, a staple of US government, is still denied to millions of people who desire to vote. Keeping people with felony convictions from voting tells them they are not fully vested members of the community and the nation.
Read the full article about Americans voting rights by Travis Reginal and Jesse Jannetta at Urban Institute.