News Release

Keeping Millions From Voting


Co-author of the report “Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States,” Mauer is assistant director of The Sentencing Project. He said today: “America has just replaced Russia as the world leader in its rate of incarceration and incarcerates far more prisoners than any other nation — nearly 2 million. In next week’s election, 4 million Americans will be locked out of the voting booth as a result of laws that disenfranchise persons convicted of a felony. In swing states such as Florida, where more than 600,000 persons are disenfranchised, these laws could directly affect the state’s electoral outcome. The racial disparities of the criminal justice system have led to 13 percent of African-American males being excluded from the electoral process. Ironically, 50 years after the beginnings of the civil rights movement, an increasing number of African Americans are excluded from the political process each year. We no longer have laws that require literacy tests or poll taxes, but the racially disproportionate results today resemble those of a hundred years ago.” Mauer is the author of Race to Incarcerate.
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Program director for Critical Resistance and a criminal defense attorney, Braz said today: “One out of every 35 African Americans is behind bars. One in three African-American youth is under some kind of criminal supervision, whether that be jail, probation or parole. If you’re disenfranchising people based on criminal convictions, it’s going to disproportionately impact the power of people of color to vote in our society since the criminal justice system is racist. African Americans constitute 14 percent of drug users nationally, but represent 35 percent of drug arrests, 55 percent of drug convictions and 75 percent of prison admissions.”
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Senior policy analyst from the Justice Policy Institute, Ziedenberg said today: “The policies that have disenfranchised such a large segment of the African-American community have had their greatest impact in the state of Texas, which this August surpassed California as having the largest prison population in the country (161,000). Under the watch of Gov. George W. Bush and former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards — whom Bush once attacked for being ‘soft on crime’ — the average annual growth of the Texas prison population during the 1990s was almost twice the average annual growth in the other states…. The incarceration rate for blacks in Texas is 63 percent higher than the national incarceration rate for blacks. Texas became number one in prisons under George W. Bush’s watch, and under the Clinton-Gore administration the federal prison system doubled in size. On Nov. 7, both major party candidates bear responsibility for the fact that huge numbers of the African-American population cannot vote…”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167