NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 20, 2004

Those persons convicted of felonies lose the right to vote in most states, and the process for regaining voting rights varies by state. Democrats are walking a fine line between giving felons the right to vote and appearing to be tough on crime, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • About 70 percent of former prisoners prefer Democrats, although their voting turnout only hovers around 25 to 30 percent.
  • In the up-for-grabs state of Florida, a total restriction on felon voting prevents 1 in 3 African-American men from going to the polls, which hurts Democrats.

Civil rights activists would like more debate on the issue, especially regarding "purge" lists which are used to prevent ineligible people from voting:

  • In Ohio, 7,000 ex-prisoners were kept from voting because of confusion among county election boards.
  • In Florida, this year's purge list contains 48,000 names, but activists say that more than 2,000 names on the list are legitimate voters.
  • In some cases, law-abiding citizens with identical names of felons will appear on purge lists, as was the case claimed in a lawsuit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) over the 2000 election.
Some African-American activists say the Democrats are missing out on a treasure trove of potential voters since about 80 percent of African-Americans support John Kerry.

Source: Avery Johnson, "Should Former Felons Be Allowed to Vote?" Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2004.

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