Monday, October 31, 2005

Felon Re-Enfranchisement

I don't know where these trains of thought come from, but lately I've been on a tear about voting rights. So, this information from Agenda for Justice caught my eye. The European court of human rights declared that denying prisoners the right to vote violates the European Convention on Human Rights. This ruling affects 46 countries, and of course the United States isn't one of them.

Not that we care in the slightest what other countries do, anyway. Nor, of course do we have anything to learn from anyone else (turning sarcasm off now.)

In the United States we have 2 million people in jail. Many states (13, actually) continue to deny voting rights to convicted felons long after their sentences are served -possibly another 2.5 million people. Check out your state here: Right to Vote. These numbers create a staggering reduction in the number of people eligible to vote, and, it seems to me, a corresponding reduction in legitimacy of anyone elected.

It gets even more tangled. A recent study suggests that Latinos are more likely than the general population to lose the right to vote due to felony disenfranchisement laws. Moreover, states with high non-white populations are the ones most likely to adopt restrictive re-enfranchisement laws. And we already know about the racial statistics of who's in jail. Does anyone see a pattern here? It's not hard to spot.

So, what do we do? I need to learn more before I do anything, so that's my commitment. But, here are some general ideas. I got a great deal of this information from The Sentencing Project. One can sign up to get advocacy information, which is what I will do. And, if there's a grad student out there looking for a research project, they also offer small research stipends. The link is a pdf file, but here it is: Research Grants

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