Felony disfranchisement laws have resulted in the disfranchisement of 1.4 million African-American men, or 13 percent of the African-American adult male population, a rate that is seven times the national average.*
Given current rates of incarceration, three in ten of the next generation of black men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime. In states that disenfranchise ex-offenders, as many as 40% of black men may permanently lose their right to vote.**Because of the markedly un-colorblind way our legal system works, felony disfranchisement disproportionately affects people of color, especially African Americans. The systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans has a long history, of course--this just seems to be a newer technique.
In Washington State, in 1996, a group of people who had lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws, challenged the state’s felon disenfranchisement provision:
...on the ground that, due to racial discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system, the automatic disenfranchisement of felons results in the denial of the right to vote on account of race, in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1973.Initially, the plaintiffs lost, but they appealed. Yesterday, in a 2-1 ruling, a panel of federal judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them.
I am not a master of legalese and am reading a lot of stuff, very slowly. I understand that this ruling would affect those currently incarcerated and could extend beyond Washington to any area covered by the 9th Circuit.
As some one who is wary of systematic disenfranchisement, I'm wondering what this all could mean...
FYI, this looks interesting: Ochs, Holona. "Color Blind Policy in Black and White: The Disparate Impact of Disenfranchisement" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Renaissance Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, May 27, 2004.
*Fellner, Jamie and Mauer, Marc, "Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States" (Washington, DC: Human Rights Watch & The Sentencing Project, 1998).
**The Sentencing Project, "Felony Disfranchisement Laws in the United States," Dated September 2008.