How US rules on former felons voting can swing presidential elections
You’ve probably seen an article trying to pinpoint the portion of the electorate that will make the difference in the 2012 election. Whether it be soccer moms, Latinos, Africa -Americans, Jewish Americans, college-educated voters, workin- class whites, Asians, most of this analysis is interesting, if a little overboard.
Yet, there is one group of Americans who loom large in number and receive little attention in presidential elections: felons. In all states but Maine and Vermont, currently incarcerated felons are not allowed to vote. In an additional 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, felons who have completed their term of imprisonment can vote. Another five states allow voting after parole has been completed, and another 18 allow voting to resume after both parole and probation have been carried out. Ex-felons (that is, former offenders who are out of prison and who have served parole and probation) in 12 states lose the right to vote permanently despite paying their “debt to society”.
A 2002 study estimated that about 4.7 million American felons in total were disenfranchised for the 2000 election, while a 2004 estimate pegged the number at about 5.3 million American felons for the 2004 election. These numbers are merely estimates from past years, but they give us an idea that about 2-3% of US citizens are barred from voting because they are (or have been) felons.
The restriction on felon franchisment is not too unusual in comparison to the rest of the world. While many countries such as Canada, Denmark, and Israel allow almost all convicted offenders to vote, others such as Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom completely bar prisoners from voting.
What is different about the US bans is that, from state to state, they may continue to be in effect after a person leaves prison. Only six countries, including Chile, Finland and Germany, in a 45-country study belong to this group. In the cases of Finland and Germany, voting rights are usually restored quickly or a ban imposed only for a period of time.
Because of America’s unique rules, some
You can read the rest of this article at:: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/03/us-rules-former-felons-voting-swing-elections?newsfeed=true
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