Ex-felons face barriers to voting rights

November 18, 2013

When the votes are tallied in Virginia’s race for governor on Tuesday, over 300,000 citizens will be missing from the voting rolls – including 20% of the state’s black population. The reason is not low turnout or voter ID, but a growing and often invisible barrier to voting that is upending elections around the country.

Over 5 million Americans are barred from voting because they have criminal records, according to a report this year from the Sentencing Project.

The crackdown on ballot access is so intense, a majority of states actually bar former convicts from voting even after they are released from prison.

SOURCE:  Presumed guilty: Ex-felons face barriers to voting rights | MSNBC.

Except for my fellow blogger Bob Lowry I probably know more felons than most who pen blog pages.  And for the most part these guys are no different from anyone else except for the fact that they made a stupid decision in their lives and paid for it by spending time behind bars.  Our society used to say you do the crime you do the time and then everything is square.

One of the most fundamental rights in a democracy is the right to vote. One person – one vote is critical to maintaining a democratic system.  Most, even in the GOP, recognize that the demographics are constantly being skewed away from the Republican party of mainly WASPS.  But instead of trying to broaden their message to include this new demographics many Republican dominated States are trying to maintain power by restricting the vote.  They figure they can hold off the tide for a number of years by keeping others outside their base from being able to vote. The main way to do that is by eliminating those who might vote against them.


It is alarming to see that over 300,000 citizens in Virginia have been purged from the voting rolls because of having served time in its prison system.  Over 5 million have been purged nationally.  Of course studies have shown that when you restrict voting by this group you “tend to take more votes from Democrats than Republicans. If you look at the map of total exclusion it should come as no surprise that the majority of State who take away voting privileges are in the solid red category.

Prior to the Civil Rights period many of these same States had restrictions of African-Americans from voting. So voting restriction is not a new thing; it is just being taken to a new level by a political party desperate for holding power.

I just don’t think that many people actually are aware how fragile  a working democracy is.  While none of these current attacks on voting rights would probably result in crossing the line, when taken together do jeopardize our country.


4 responses to Ex-felons face barriers to voting rights


    Felons cannot vote for a very good, very specific reason:

    The premise is that a crime which is a felony is one that shows such utter disregard for society’s rules, that committing it renders a person deserving of a life-long punishment.

    Some of that punishment is confinement.

    Losing the full rights of citizenship is also part of that punishment. You cannot own a gun ever again, and you cannot vote. You are also subject to discrimination in employment & other legal processes.

    This stigmatization is part of the punishment – and thus part of the deterrent effect that a felony sentence carries.

    We are not talking about ‘accidental’ crimes here – no one gets a felony sentence for a speeding ticket…

    These are INTENTIONAL crimes, and the law exists to PUNISH offenders for their INTENTIONAL behavior.

    Instead, why not speak out about the excessive levels of criminality in the US?

    After all, these people are in prison due to THEIR OWN CHOICES, not because ‘society is picking on them’.



      Pretty rough words Jane. Several of the ex-felons I personally know were were there for having or smoking marijuana or maybe too much alcohol. They got behind the wheel and maybe drove too fast or recklessly. That was a one time event in their lives. They have turned the corner but with the stigma of having made that mistake they will never be able to get back to where they were no matter how they have turned their lives around. I guess I am just a more forgiving guy than you. I don’t believe that one two minute mistake should cost you the rest of your life.

      Yes they made their own CHOICES as you shout but does really have to mean a lifetime of punishment?? Now don’t get me wrong there are people who are truly evil and deserve long term punishment and should never be allowed back into society. And there are those who are so self-centered that they have no remorse for their crimes but only think of themselves. But the vast majority are just spur of the moment things. The attitude that you espouse toward those who have committed a felony sometime in their life is probably the main reason for the high recidivism. We will never forgive or forget that mistake no matter what they do with the rest of their life…



    Sorry R.J., I find it hard to believe that the “majority” of of felons are convicted for “spur of the moments mistakes” like speeding while intoxicated or smoking marijuana. If they are, it means a problem with the sentencing and conviction end of the system….not a reason to lessen the consequences of a true felony which is a serious crime.
    I don’t think my words are rough, I think they are logical.
    The main topic here was voting rights. Do we really want millions of people who have shown serious disregard for the law to now be in a position to affect our laws by voting. There is no detterent to committing serious crimes if there are no serious consequences. Period. I’m sorry if you find that harsh.



      Jane, I certainly don’t know if the “majority” of felons are just caught up in the spur of the moment things. I have not studied that to any extent. But I do hear of the cases, for instance of the woman in Florida recently who discharged a gun in the air because she thought her ex-boyfriend was going to accost her once again. She got twelve years in prison and it was her first felony. I’m sure she is not the only case like that. But I think you would be surprised as to just what a felony is defined as in many states.

      You keep saying a “serious disregard for the law”. I am telling you that the cases I know that is just not the case with many, that I personally know. I am just not a “lock em up and throw away the key” type of guy. Yes, I too believe that “serious crimes should have serious consequences” but not all and I believe not even the majority of crimes are serious enough for a throw away the key mentality. I’m sure you have your reasons for thinking the way you do so I will respect that.