Felony disenfranchisement has a long history in American politics. Many states refashioned their laws or adopted new ones in the wake of the Civil War to suppress newly enfranchised Black citizens. Even today, nearly six decades after the formal demise of Jim Crow, Black voters and other citizens of color are disproportionately affected by felony disenfranchisement. Thanks to this regime, they're prohibited from voting at rates many times higher than that of white citizens.
Preventing prisoners from exercising their voting rights only further isolates them from society, and many formerly incarcerated people have argued it serves as a barrier to reintegration after release. It also serves no purpose: Fears that prisoner voting could somehow corrupt elections are completely unfounded, and in any event, despite America's penchant for mass incarceration, those behind bars would constitute only a very small slice of the electorate.
The American approach in fact stands in sharp contrast to the practices in many other advanced democracies. One study showed that at least 18 comparable nations, including Canada, France, and Switzerland, allow some or all prisoners to vote, and only in the United States is it possible to permanently lose the right to vote. Some might regard ending felony disenfranchisement as a radical step, but it's America's system that is the true outlier internationally.
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