Felon Disenfranchisement

By Demleitner, Nora | The University of Memphis Law Review, January 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Felon Disenfranchisement


Demleitner, Nora, The University of Memphis Law Review


Good afternoon. I want to thank the Law Review for inviting me to be part of this truly exciting day here at the law school. Increasingly we've seen informal restrictions on the ballot box. Those may take the form of closures of voting places, misleading information about voting times and places, and even registered voters being thrown off the ballot. There is, however, also a connection between the criminal justice system and voting. For example, some studies have documented the indirect impact of the criminal justice system on voter participation. For example, in neighborhoods in which excessive policing occurs, especially the infamous stop-and-frisk practices, voting participation is clearly depressed.1

My focus today, however, is on a perfectly legal form of disenfranchisement. one that closely connects our voting rights and the criminal justice system-felon disenfranchisement. Felon disenfranchisement allows for citizens to be legally barred from voting because of a felony record. The impact of this bar is substantial as we have about 19 million Americans who have a felony record.2 Some of those individuals are currently under the control of the criminal justice system, but many of them are not; they've long completed their sentences. It is the states that decide whether and for how long felons will be denied voting rights.

These bars continue even though we have neither a political philosophy nor a criminal justice policy that can justify them. Lack of a satisfying justification might be less distressing were the excluded group smaller and less racially skewed.

In its broadest forms, felon disenfranchisement excludes even individuals who have long been rehabilitated. Y et they are still treated only as partial citizens. Automatic, long-term restrictions on the franchise are unnecessarily exclusionary. More importantly, they hinder reentry and rehabilitation. Citizens returning from imprisonment, who can vote, have lower rates of recidivism than those who are barred from voting.3 Re-enfranchisement signals a return to citizenship. It advances and confirms a returning citizen's full participatory rights. Ultimately, that means we recognize these individuals as having lived up to the expectation of rehabilitation rather than leaving them feeling defeated.

Let's now turn to specific practices and their impact. In its broadest form, felon disenfranchisement impacts large groups of individuals, mainly those currently imprisoned, pre-trial detainees, and those under supervised release. In a select number of states,4 this disenfranchised populace includes individuals who have long been released from criminal justice supervision.

Let me start with those who are imprisoned. There are two American states that do not bar anyone from the ballot box based on their criminal record. Maine and Vermont permit prison inmates to vote.5 But those are the only two states. All other states, at a minimum, disenfranchise individuals currently serving prison time under a felony sentence. That is about 1.5 million people in the United States as a whole.6

In addition to convicted prisoners, there are about 550,000 people in jails around the country awaiting trial.7 Technically, they are not precluded from voting. They have not lost their voting rights because the law deems them innocent. Yet administrative hurdles effectively disenfranchise them.8 Many do not understand that they retain the right to vote. They may not have the ability to get ballot materials, and often they are concerned that voting may be held against them at trial or in other later proceedings. In the Cook County jail in Chicago, Illinois, 17% of pre-trial detainees voted in the 2016 presidential election.9 Most of the jails around the country, though, have voting participation rates of less than 1%.10

Even though the current era has frequently been dubbed the era of "mass imprisonment," this term is misleading. While our prison system is exceptionally large, the population that is under supervision actually dwarfs it substantially. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Felon Disenfranchisement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.