The Common Good
March 2006

Votes in a Lockbox?

by James Ferguson | March 2006

There are currently 7 million adults under correctional supervision in the United States, 1.6 million more than in 1995, according to a recent Department of Justice report. The majority are ineligible to vote. Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project, told Sojourners that laws that prevent convicted felons from voting could “skew the electorate in many states, [with] many elections decided by felony disenfranchisement.” He cited as an example the 2000 presidential race in Florida.

• In 48 states and the District of Columbia, all convicted adults in prison are denied the vote; 36 states disenfranchise felons on parole; 29 disenfranchise those on probation; 11 disenfranchise former offenders for life.
• Of those denied the right to vote, about one in eight (585,355) is a military veteran.
• 1.4 million African-American men are disenfranchised, a rate seven times the national average.
• The United States has the highest imprisonment rate in the world (686 per 100,000).
• Three-fifths of the world’s countries have imprisonment rates one-quarter of the U.S rate or lower.
• In 2004, one in every 31 adults was under correctional supervision, compared to one in 88 in 1980.

Sources: “Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States” (The Sentencing Project, 2004); “Disenfranchised Veterans in the United States” (The Sentencing Project, 2003); “World Prison Population List” (U.K.’s Home Office, 2003); “Number of U.S. Adults in Prison on Rise” (The Boston Globe).

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