A new study conducted by The Sentencing Project estimated that 5.2 million Americans will be barred from voting in the 2020 election because of a felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement, which were laws put in place in the Jim Crow era, is still prevalent throughout the United States today with it being the highest in southern states, according to the study titled “Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction.”
While many states have reformed their laws to expand voting access to Americans with felony convictions, more than seven percent of the adult population in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee, remains unable to vote.
The Sentencing Project, a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice issues, concluded that even with such state reforms happening over the past 25 years, 5.2 million Americans remain disenfranchised with 2.3 percent of them being of voting age. While that figure has declined by almost 15 percent since 2016, “one out of 44 adults—2.27 percent of the total U.S. voting eligible population—is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction,” according to the study.
In the eleven states that still disenfranchise (Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming), Americans who have completed their sentences make up most of the entire disenfranchised population, totaling 2.23 million or 43 percent, according to the study.
About about one-fourth of the disenfranchised population is currently incarcerated, and about 4 million of these adults, who have completed their sentencing, are barred from voting, 1.3 million of which are African Americans and approximately 1.2 million are women.
The study concluded that “when we break these figures down by race and ethnicity, it is clear that disparities in the criminal justice system are linked to disparities in political representation.”
“The bedrock of any democracy is the right to vote,” Amy Fettig, The Sentencing Project’s executive director, said. “Laws that exclude people from voting have destabilized communities and families in America for decades by denying them a voice in determining their futures. Voting is a vital responsibility of citizenship that must be encouraged and defended.”