For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Carolyn Clendenin, cclendenin@rabengroup.com, 347-869-7382

The Sentencing Project

New Study Reveals Millions Denied Franchise Due to Felonies

Draconian state laws ban 5.2 million Americans from voting in 2020 election.

WASHINGTON - Today, The Sentencing Project released a new study estimating that 5.2 million people will be barred from voting in the 2020 election due to a felony conviction. Locked Out 2020 updates and expands on research The Sentencing Project released in 2016 analyzing the scope of felony disenfranchisement, as well as the state-level distribution of laws that ban people with previous felony convictions from voting. 

The rate of felony disenfranchisement continues to be highest in southern states, where numerous felony voting restrictions were passed during the Jim Crow era, with the express purpose of limiting the political power of Black men. Today’s data reveal a similar race-based suppression of voting rights for the Black community. For the first time ever, the new study includes estimates of the impact of felony disenfranchisement on the Latinx community.

“The bedrock of any democracy is the right to vote,” said The Sentencing Project’s executive director, Amy Fettig. “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.” 

Racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system are tightly linked to disparities in political representation. Laws that bar people with a felony conviction from voting disproportionately exclude Black people. One in 16 Black Americans of voting age cannot vote because of a felony conviction. Among non-Black voters, one in 59 is disenfranchised. The Latinx community is also disproportionately harmed by felony disenfranchisement, with 34 states disenfranchising Latinx adults more than the general population.

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Over the last 25 years, half of all states have reformed their laws and practices to expand voting access for people with felony convictions, but appalling remnants of the Jim Crow South remain. More than seven percent of the adult population in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee, remains unable to vote because of mistakes they made in the past. Over one million people in Florida alone can’t vote today because they have a felony record.

“A significant majority of Americans favor restoring voting rights to people who have either completed their sentences, or are living in the community while on probation or parole,” said Christopher Uggen, lead researcher in the study and a professor at the University of Minnesota. “Voting rights would be restored to 75 percent of the disenfranchised if the American people’s voice was heard and respected.”

Other key findings include:

  • Over 560,000 Latinx Americans or over 2 percent of the voting eligible population are disenfranchised.
  • Approximately 1.2 million women are disenfranchised.
  • 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.
  • Individuals who have completed their sentences in the eleven states that disenfranchise at least some people post-sentence make up most (43 percent) of the entire disenfranchised population, totaling 2.23 million people.

Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction is co-authored by Christopher Uggen, Ryan Larson, Sarah Shannon, and Arleth Pulido-Nava. The full report is available here

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The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by producing groundbreaking research to promote reforms in sentencing policy, address unjust racial disparities and practices, and to advocate for alternatives to incarceration. 

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