News Release

Millions of Americans Not Allowed to Vote

CHRIS UGGEN
Uggen is a professor and McKnight Presidential Fellow at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the forthcoming book Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy. He said today: “Our survey of 1,000 Americans showed that 80 percent favor returning voting rights to former felons once they complete their sentences, 60 percent favor re-enfranchising parolees and probationers. In general, we find that a civil liberties view prevails over a punitive view that would deny political rights to non-incarcerated felons…. Felon voting affects elections in close Republican victories in states with very strict laws. Felon disenfranchisement is likely to have affected the outcome of the 2000 presidential election and seven U.S. Senate elections.”
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YVONNE CARDONA
Cardona is unable to vote as the result of a felony conviction on her record stemming from drug conspiracy charges she received when she became entangled in a sting involving her boyfriend (who, she said, she did not know was a drug seller) at 18 years of age. She said today: “I’m from Selma, Alabama. My mother participated in the civil-rights movement so that everyone can vote. Now I find that I cannot vote. I was very young when the case against me was brought, and I had just had a baby. I was told to plead guilty so that I could go home so I did — I was given only probation, no jail time. However, nobody told me that it would mean I could never vote. I found out I couldn’t vote when I went to my first polling booth, very excited to be voting for the first time. There they told me I couldn’t vote, that I was wiped out of the voting list. I was devastated. I was always a community activist so I participated in many drives to register people to vote. I kept encountering other people like me, people who couldn’t vote because of previous convictions. I kept a list of them but didn’t tell them I was also one of them. Then, I had enough and started talking about it and organizing to restore our rights as citizens.”

Cardona added: “In Alabama, we won some victories. Last year, we won the right to restore our vote after approval from the parole board. The problem is one must pay restitution first. Selma is a poor town, there is a lot of poverty among especially black people. There are very few good jobs. They can’t pay all the fines and the restitution, especially since they can accumulate to large amounts over time. That just continues the injustice”

ROBIN TEMPLETON
Templeton is the director of Right to Vote. She said today: “Nearly 5 million or 1 in 43 Americans cannot vote as a result of laws in 48 states and the District of Columbia that disenfranchise people with felony convictions. These figures have increased dramatically in recent years as a result of the expansion of the criminal justice system, disproportionately in communities of color, and are now at a historic high. African Americans are disproportionately affected by these policies, with an estimated 13 percent of black males currently unable to vote.”

Templeton added: “The impact of these policies has been seen most dramatically in the historic 2000 presidential election, in which more than 600,000 Florida residents who previously had a felony conviction were unable to vote due to the state’s restrictive policies. These laws are also open to abuse and manipulation. The state of Florida created a purge list of 47,000 names for the 2004 election, but refused to release it for public scrutiny until forced to do so as the result of a lawsuit. It was then found to have as many as 2,100 names of people with felony convictions whose rights had been restored. In July 2004, the state pulled the list after it was discovered that Latinos (a community that traditionally votes Republican in Florida) with felony convictions were largely absent from the purge list. … In 13 states, a felony conviction can result in the loss of voting rights for life; no other democratic nation takes away voting rights of all people with felony convictions for life, and many do not impose disenfranchisement for any category of felony conviction.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 332-5055; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167