Felony Convictions And The Effect On Voting Rights

Aspen Criminal Defense Lawyer, Glenwood Springs Criminal Defense Lawyer

Jon Oliver, on his show “Last Week Tonight,” recently highlighted some staggering facts about felony convictions and the effect on voters rights. You may have known that many people who have been convicted of felonies cannot vote. The issue, however, might be much more influential than you realize. In total, about 2% of the entire US’s voting population cannot vote because of prior felony convictions. This 2% of barred voters is mostly concentrated in 13 states, including important swing states Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa, and Florida.

The Data Behind Barred Voter

The numbers break down like this. 13 states bar any convicted felon from voting for life, with little exceptions. This means, just over 6.1 million people in America cannot vote based on their prior felony convictions. Again, 6.1 million adults is about 2% of the total US voting population. To put that into perspective, that is roughly equivalent to the size of the entire US Mormon population and bigger than the size of the entire US Jewish population.

In concentrated areas the numbers get more extreme. In Florida, over 10% of the adult population can’t vote because of prior felony convictions. This 10% disproportionately affects Floridian communities of color. In Florida, 1 in 5 black adults cannot vote. This is crucially important to the electoral system because Florida’s presidential elections are typically very close. In 2016 Florida favored Donald Trump by only 104,000 voters. In 2000, George W. Bush famously won Florida by only 537 votes.

Colorado Felony Civil Rights Laws

In comparison Colorado, instills a different procedure for a felon’s right to vote. Convicted felons in Colorado can vote after they are released from prison and serve any parole or probationary sentence. Coloradan Felons cannot vote while they are serving their sentence, but once their sentence is completed, they have their civil rights back. This is how 22 states treat ex-felons. 14 states only take away the right to vote when that person is incarcerated. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote.

Upcoming Legislative Reform

There is some hope for civil rights advocates in Florida. Currently, there is a November 2018 Florida ballot, the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” that would restore the right to vote for all felons who have finished their sentence, other than sex offenders and murderers. Additionally, recent polls suggest that this ballot is overwhelmingly popular with Floridians. The amendment needs 60% of Florida’s vote but is slated to pass.

Even if the ballot passed, over 4.5 million American’s are still disenfranchised from voting due to a felony conviction. That number continues to grow due to American incarceration rates.

Obviously, felony convictions have serious consequences other than a losing your right to vote including prison, parole, probation, forced treatment, fines, and losing of other civil rights. It is vitally important for people who are accused of any crime to get exceptional criminal defense lawyers to receive just outcomes on their cases.

Kalamaya | Goscha is a Colorado law firm founded by Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha.  If you have a criminal defense matter, the criminal defense attorneys at Kalamaya | Goscha help guide you. To speak to an attorney call (970) 315-2365.

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