For more than a century, Mississippi has imposed a lifetime voting ban on people convicted of various offenses, including arson, forgery and bigamy. Called “disenfranchisement,” the removal of a citizen’s right to vote through conviction is rooted in the state’s 1890 constitution.

The constitution’s drafters freely admitted that the disenfranchisement clause targeted Black voters to reduce their political power following the end of Reconstruction. The list of offenses has expanded over the years.

For many, the disenfranchisement laws can be confusing. Contact your county’s election administrator to determine if you can vote or register to vote based on your conviction.

Now, for the first time in over a decade, a bipartisan group of legislators wants to restore voting rights to thousands of state citizens, with the conservative leadership of the state House of Representatives backing the effort.

Also, multiple lawsuits in recent years in federal court sought to overturn disenfranchisement, so far without success.

An estimated 50,000 people from 1994 through 2017 have lost their voting rights through conviction in state court, according to a 2018 study commissioned by plaintiffs who sued to overturn the disenfranchisement law.

Nearly 60% of people who lost their right to vote are Black, the study found. Mississippi’s adult Black population was at 36% in 2020, according to the U.S. census.

How does Mississippi’s current disenfranchisement system work? And how could lawmakers change it?

Read the full article about disenfranchisement laws in Mississippi by Caleb Bedillion at The Marshall Project.