Solution to Felony Disenfranchisement

Solution to Felony Disenfranchisement

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Startling Statistics

According to ProCon.org, a non-profit, professional research organization, in 2016 nearly 6.1 million felons nationally, were affected by disenfranchisement and were unable to vote in the most recent presidential election. As stated by E. Kelley, a research associate at Brennan Center for Justice, felon disenfranchisement has disproportionately affected African Americans; one in every thirteen voting-eligible African Americans are unable to vote, which is a rate four times higher than the rest of the voting-eligible population.

A State of Confusion

The current felon disenfranchisement laws vary across the states. Currently, in two states (Maine, Vermont), felons never lose the right to vote. 14 states, including the District of Columbia, felons only lose the right to vote while incarcerated. 22 states restore a felons right to vote after they have fully completed their sentence, which includes parole. Lastly, 12 states, not allowing felons the right to vote until the completion of a waiting period or until they have received governor's pardon (NCSL).

This is yet another needlessly complicated and inconsistent aspect of a United States criminal justice system desperately in need of reform. In a reality where the classifications of what is and isn’t a felony is already vague and inconsistent, we are in need of some sort of uniting consistency. When felons are released from prison and they are deemed safe to integrate back into society, their right to vote should be immediately restored.

A Felon’s Illustration

Matthew Cardinale, a graduate student at the University of California-Irvine, talked with a group of people directly affected by felon disenfranchisement to understand their thoughts on the issue:

“Now I have an eleven year old daughter and I want to make the world a better place for her. But I missed out and now I feel like I don’t have a say on anything that goes on in this world.”

“Now more than before it means a lot to me. I’m more aware of the problems. You have no voice, it doesn’t count. You have no vote, but everyone should be able to vote. I thought this was supposed to be one nation under God indivisible, but now they’re trying to divide us.”

American’s, who have made mistakes, done their time, and are released back into society are being restricted of democratic participation in their own government. This issue is especially timely because of the next presidential election being in 2020. If we can give our brothers, sisters and neighbors a second chance, we can give the felons, released from prison, and integrating back into society, the right to vote.

The Importance of Reintegration

All felons released from prison on parole should be allowed the right to democratic participation. This guarantees more human rights for felons, and greater opportunities and incentives for actual progress towards the reformation of individuals in the prison system, as well as outside of the system, making a reintegration into society more plausible.

Felon reintegration is already a difficult process, with jobs being harder to achieve, so eliminating another factor would allow those released and deemed reformed by the state a better opportunity to reclaim their dignity through exercising the rights guaranteed to them as American citizens. Studies published by two graduate students at University of California Berkeley Law also show that allowing felons the right to vote has a positive impact of reintegration.

As a 2020 presidential election looms, it is paramount that the democratic rights of those deemed reformed are restored for a smoother reintegration into society and restoration of dignity to those affected by felony disenfranchisement.

A Nationwide Solution

In order to make this happen, a Federal constitutional amendment must be proposed to  that guarantees felons the right to vote while on parole. The Country must follow the examples of the 14 other states guaranteeing democratic rights to those on parole. Through the amendment proposed in this petition, progress will be made and extended in prison reform in an effort to restore humanity and human rights to the incarcerated.

This is not a partisan issue, it is a solution to human rights violations that are federally imposed on the oftentimes most disenfranchised members of society.

In order to bring about the necessary change in this contemporary social problem, we propose an amendment to The National Voting Rights originally enacted in 1965. The proposal will be as follows:

The National Voting Rights Act 2019

  • Guarantees all felons in the United States that have received parole the right to vote (excluding Maine and Vermont where all prisoners will still be allowed to vote in prison).

Please pledge your support for more humane voting practices in the United States by signing today.

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