How Millions of Americans Are Losing Their Right to Vote, and How We Can Change That

Millions of Americans are being forced to sit out every election thanks to felon disenfranchisement.  

More than six million individuals across the U.S. experience Felony disenfranchisement, which means they have voter restrictions imposed on them because of a felony conviction. Disenfranchisement levels vary though, due to complicated and state-specific laws.

“There are two states where people never lose their right to vote, those were the states of Maine and Vermont, so actually people in prison can vote,” explained The Sentencing Project’s director of advocacy Nicole D. Porter. “There are other states such as Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and Iowa where people lose their right to vote for life if they have a felony conviction unless the governor either pardons or restors their voting rights through some other process.”

This November, Florida residents will vote on constitutional amendments to expand voting rights to convicted felons. If approved, people with prior felony convictions would have their voting rights automatically restored upon completion of all terms of sentence. The amendment would only apply to felons not convicted of murder or a felony sexual assault.

“These are going to be residents — and they are residents today — who pay taxes, they’re expected to be good neighbors, they’re expected to be good residents of their communities and support their families,” Porter said. “And they should also be allowed to vote and participate in inclusive democracy, these are folks who fully want to participate in the democratic institution and they should be allowed to because they’re expected to do a range of other things as part of the social contract.”