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Effects of felony disenfranchisement on black voters

Effectsof felony disenfranchisement on black voters

Effectsof felony disenfranchisement on black voters

Felonydisenfranchisement is defined as preventing eligible voters fromvoting. The main reasons may be a conviction of a criminal offense.The offense is usually restricted to a more dangerous class offelonies. According to the rights of universal suffrage, felonydisenfranchisement is an injustice to the people. Felonydisenfranchisement comprises a broad array of issues affecting thesocio-legal environment. Felon voting restrictions in the US is aclear identification of how the people`s decisions are affected bylegislations (Uggen, Manza &amp Behrens, 2004). Convicted felons aredenied the right to choose their leaders because they are criminals.

Asmuch as the laws carry a neutral facial recognition, most of themseem to affect the black generation. These laws are a constantreminder that the United States was once divided on racial groundsand most of the legislations were formed on a history of racialdiscrimination. These laws serve as an example of how advantagedgroups manipulate the law in a bid to control the disadvantagedgroups. Disenfranchising criminals is not a recent phenomenon in theworld. Consequently, it has survived many legal challenges (Uggen,Manza &amp Behrens, 2004). Most of these difficulties have left gapsand loopholes where questions of equal treatment and fair justiceemanate. The nature of the right to vote undergoes total criticism.Democracy is also put to the test due to the constitutional exclusionof a large group of its citizens. As observed, felon voting rightscreate a much more significant impact on US elections compared tovoter ID laws. Consequently, this paper will research on the effectsof voter disenfranchisement significantly affect black voters in theUS.


Theseverity of US practices is distinct internationally. Therefore,felon disenfranchisement compares to mass incarceration. The practiceexemplifies larger consequences that will befall a convicted person.For a long time, the laws have created friction even to theinternational world (Uggen, Manza &amp Behrens, 2004). The questionof democracy often creates mixed feelings both to the people in theUS and the international community. Voting is not seen as a right forall citizens because some are not eligible to vote even when what[prevents them from voting is considered a legislative issue ofconflicting interests. About 48 states in the US currently limitvoting based on felony conviction laws (Pettus, 2005).

Nonetheless,the states have different lengths of these statutes. Some of theselaws range from indefinite disenfranchisement (Witkowsky, 2004). Themagnitude of uncertain goes beyond the completion of any criminalsentence to the elimination of disenfranchisement. Theconstitutionality of these laws still stands as a dilemma. These lawscontinue to fall under entrenchment upon fundamental rights to vote.Felon disenfranchisement laws affect up to more than 5 million peoplewho are not eligible to vote in the US. In most instances, almost onemillion inhabitants will be actually in jail at the time for voting(Witkowsky, 2004). The rest will be living in their communities whilestill under probation, parolees or as former felons. Former felonsbecome ineligible to vote because they reside in states where theyare locked out of the voting system. Statistics indicate that allthese people who are disenfranchised form close to 3% of the ballotbloc. The percentage is considered very significant in affecting theresults of elections at any given time (Pettus, 2005).

Disenfranchisementlaws in the United States have roots in European laws. One limitingfactor for these laws is the scope and range of offenses committed toearning a loss of voting right. For instance, during the colonialera, offenses such as drunkenness received a person voting rightinfringement (Behrens, 2004). Voting bribery was and still is aserious offense that earns a total person ban from voting. Per se,most legislatures saw that people were easily controlled if theiroffenses were tied to their voting rights (hrens, Uggen &amp Manza,2003). Striping right to vote by a felony conviction has differentdimensions. There have been various arguments put across to supportor criticize disenfranchisement. In most cases, these discussionsfollow a social contract approach. The basis of it is the fact that abreach of a contract is what amounts to a crime (hrens, Uggen &ampManza, 2003).

Dueto the violation, many people believe that a person should bestripped the rights to elect legislatures. This method is sought tobe the protector of ballot box integrity. On another note, linkingcrime to voting is considered group conflict rather than societalconsensus. From this [perception, advantaged groups with powerfulinfluence to the law use it to further enhance their dominantpositions. Consequently, the argument of racial inequalities hasbecome eminent. Its eminence is portrayed by the disproportionateshare of disenfranchised African American voters. Those opposingdisenfranchisement state that it violates the constitution especiallyby infringing the rights of individuals to vote (Behrens, 2004).

Somepeople support felony disenfranchisement by stating that it maintainsthe purity of the ballot box. For instance, the Republican traditionhas its reservations on disenfranchisement. They believe that thepolitical community will remain viable only if it consists ofcitizens who respect democratic procedures and its rules (hrens,Uggen &amp Manza, 2003). Consequently, the presence of criminalswithin the political environment is a serious factor to theconfidence of clean elections. It is believed that the bad vote,`criminal vote` contaminates clean votes (Clegg, 2004b). Proponentsof disenfranchisement continue to argue that felons cannot be trustedbecause they once broke a social contract. They stated that ifdisenfranchisement is abolished, felons will come together and votein a system they will be able to manipulate. According to suchstipulations, it can be deduced that nonpolitical offenders arelikely to commit election fraud as compared to nonoffenders. It isalso deduced that offenders have the will to join hands and vote acertain way that will hinder purity of voting (Clegg, 2004b).

Raceand disenfranchisement

Supportersof disenfranchisement state that laws governing disenfranchisementare race neutral. This means that disenfranchisement is notdetermined by the race of an offender. An offender from any race willbe disenfranchised as long as he or she commits a crime. Nonetheless,the historical events associated with felony disenfranchisementindicate that there are some genetic patterns in execution (Hoffman,2003). Additionally, the social circumstances used for felonydisenfranchisement support the claims of racism. Historically, thelaws flourished very much when they were first constituted into theconstitution (Karlan, 2004). Facts indicate that during this time,the minority who were significantly affected by these laws were blackAmericans. Considering the 2004 elections in the US, it is estimatedthat 8% of the African American voting population wasdisenfranchised. The main reasons were the occurrence of a pastfelony. States were free to infringe the rights of voters until whenthe Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendments were constituted. Beforethe implementation of these amendments, states were free to restrainany group or any individual from voting based on their policies(Hoffman, 2003).

AfricanAmericans are the most affected by disenfranchisement laws. Evenafter many people fighting for the rights of voters, America stilldisenfranchises felons (Karlan, 2004). Statistics indicate that 13%of all adult black men totaling to 1.4 million are disenfranchised.These numbers represent one-third of the entire population of thedisenfranchised population. The rate is a reflection of almost seventimes the national average. Different regions portray differenteffects of disenfranchisement (McCain, 2004). For instance, Floridaand Alabama indicate a total of 31 percent figure stating that theseare black men who are permanently disenfranchised (Karlan, 2004).Some other countries suggest that one in every four black men ispermanently disenfranchised. There are others who are disenfranchisedfor a particular period. Nonetheless, some may regain access to theirvoting rights depending on the laws of the state. Different stateshave different stipulations where some may restore their rightsprobably after finishing their sentences, end parole, or completeprobation (McCain, 2004).

Statesthat allow felons to vote subsequently show small numbers of blackpeople. For instance, Maine and Vermont allow felons to vote. Theclaims of disenfranchisement along racial lines are because stateshave minimum occupancy of black Americans (McCain, 2004).Consequently, the larger percentage of felons is white Americans. Ifthey deny voting rights on felony grounds, they will deny white folksopportunities to exercise their rights. There are other states andthe District of Columbia that allow felons on parole to vote (McCain,2004). Statistics on population indicate that the number of blackresidents in these thirteen states is minuscule. For instance,Montana, New Hampshire, and Utah have very minimum numbers of blacks.

Onthe contrary, twelve states deny felons the opportunity to vote(Uggen, Manza &amp Behrens, 2004). In a recent brawl betweenpolitical parties, some party veterans fighting for their partysupremacy in the just concluded elections laid down the facts onracial biases. Evidently, some states employ disenfranchisementbecause the white voting bloc will not be affected. For instance, theRepublicans accused the Democrats in North Carolina for failing toinstitute laws that would ensure equality in voting. Republicansstated that Democrats needed to turn their attention to felon andex-felon voting restrictions that mostly affected the blacks (Uggen,Manza &amp Behrens, 2004).

Thegreatest people to be affected by disenfranchisement are theminorities. As much as the number of blacks voting has increased overthe years, there are a significant number of blacks affected by felondisenfranchising laws. Additionally, black people are continuouslyignoring their rights to voting because they feel that the leadershiphas oppressed them. The African American community has the highestnumbers of ex-felons (Uggen, Manza &amp Behrens, 2004). They alsohave the greatest number of felons hence their voice is diminishedwhen it comes to the poles. Some states such as Alabama, Mississippi,and Tennessee have big numbers of black Americans. Unfortunately, theblacks are the most commonly found criminals. Additionally, they arepunished by denying them a chance to vote (hrens, Uggen &amp Manza,2003). In a different angle, this is racism at its highest peak. Theminority group is denied the rights to participate in elections sothat they cannot make changes to the voting tides. It is determinedthat when a white American apply for the right to vote after clearinga felon, the process is much friendly. On the other hand, a blackAmerican will use using the same procedure. Nonetheless, the processwill be complicated by bureaucracies meaning that the minority arestill oppressed.

Thecase of Florida and Virginia depicts competitive states when it comesto elections (hrens, Uggen &amp Manza, 2003). They are also the towstates that tolerate very harsh laws on felons. In essence, evenex-felons can have a tough time in voting. For instance, Florida lawsstate that an ex-felon must wait for five years to be allowed tovouch right to vote. Some offenders categorically placed on moreviolent offenders list must wait for even up top seven years (Cullen,2005). In additions, ex-felons are supposed to pay fines to thecourts so that they can be allowed to re-apply for voting rights.Translating these factors indicate that racism plays a major role inFlorida. Florida harbors the largest population of black Americans,and most of them live low lives. This means that the blacks have thehighest numbers of unemployed people. They are easily found guilty ofcrimes due to the harsh conditions of life and the superiority of thewhites over the blacks (Cullen, 2005).

Lastyear statistics indicated that over twenty percent of the blackpopulation in each state in America is disenfranchised. The mainreasons are being felons or falling under the ex-felon restrictionsof voting. Florida comprised of five hundred thousand black Americanswho do not vote due to disenfranchisement. Virginia consisted ofquarter a million black people who do not vote due to felony laws.The two mentioned states have one thing in common, more than half ofthe ineligible voters are blacks (Hoffman, 2003).

Electoralresults are affected significantly by these felon laws. One of thesignificant reasons for racial discriminations in the line of felonydisenfranchisement is to influence their decisions in the broadersphere. The presidential elections of President Obama are a clearindication of the racial bias the disenfranchisement has in theUnited States. Obama would have added 2.6pt in Florida where heattained 0.9pt. The change would be brought if the marginaccommodated for felons and ex-felons in the vote. Statisticsindicate that even if it were only ex-felons, the figure would haverisen to 2.2pt. The same case was seen in Virginia. Thus, felonydisenfranchisement affects all the decisions of the minority groups. Disenfranchisement rates are different with regards to race andethnic groups. As such communities of color are impacted most byrestrictions of voting.

Racialdiscrimination is an important issue that affects even the criminaljustice systems. For instance, some black people are denied theirrights to voting due to poor representation in the justice systems.Plaintiffs have demonstrated that court discriminations are emergentfrom felon disenfranchisement. Disenfranchising felons indicateclearly that racial discrimination is at its peak (Hoffman, 2003).African Americans are expected to continue struggling past obstaclesthat are set to limit their citizenship rights (Pettus, 2005). Thereare many obstacles put in their way that is aimed at denying them therights to vote. For instance, there are several jurisdictions set forthem to overcome such as poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfatherclauses, whites-only primaries and felon disenfranchisement laws.These factors are all designed with the intention to prohibiting themfrom voting (Pettus, 2005).

Recentlyin Carolina, advocates have gone to court challenging the laws of thestate on voting. The supporters say that the Congress refused toenact proper laws instead of the present laws. These laws aresupposed to suppress the voters. The legislature is blamed foradopting these laws as a way of maintaining political superiority(Pettus, 2005). The advocates instigate that these laws were passedunder false pretenses of stopping crime by disenfranchising felons.On a different note, the courts ruled for the lawyers stating thatthe laws were not fit as they targeted black Americans living in thestate. The Democrats were charged with maintaining laws that onlyfavored their political ambitions. The court strictly argued thatthese statutes are racial and instigate racial discrimination againstthe blacks. Nonetheless, supporters to the disenfranchisement offelons justify the laws prompted by states as a method of curbingcrime and protecting the sanity of leaders elected in differentpositions (Pettus, 2005).

Thereare more variations in legal analysis on disenfranchised laws basedon racial grounds. Nonetheless, the judicial has yielded few changesin rectifying the laws that are supposedly based on racial grounds.Most of the challenges associated with racial discrimination invoting are addressed on the Fifteenth Amendment and Section Two ofthe Voting Rights Act. These laws assert that disenfranchisementserves two purposes. The first is to dilute a situation and thesecond is to deny the voting rights of individuals by race (Uggen,Manza &amp Behrens, 2004).


Itis evident that racial discrimination has many roots. One of itsroots emanates from felon disenfranchisement. Consequently,disenfranchisement is a primary cause of discriminating blacks fromvoting. Felon voting restrictions in the US is a clear identificationof how the people`s decisions are affected by legislations. Convictedfelons are denied the right to choose their leaders because they arecriminals. As much as the laws carry a neutral facial recognition,most of them seem to affect the black generation. Therefore, felondisenfranchisement compares to mass incarceration. The practiceexemplifies larger consequences that will befall a convicted person.For a long time, the laws have created friction even to theinternational world. The question of democracy often creates mixedfeelings both to the people in the US and the internationalcommunity. States that allow felons to vote subsequently show smallnumbers of blacks. For instance, Maine and Vermont allow felons tovote. The reason why this support claims of disenfranchisement alongracial lines is that these states have very minimum occupancy byblack Americans. Consequently, the larger percentage of felons iswhite Americans. With all the statistics and information provided inthis paper, it is conclusive to state that felony disenfranchisementis another way of racial discrimination that affects the voting powerof the black Americans.


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