How to Suppress Voters: Removing Voting Rights from Former Felons

How many states have restrictive felon voting laws? In 2016, The Sentencing project was reporting that 12 states were placing disenfranchisement restrictions on people convicted of a felony after they had served their sentence ( some of these cases, the ban is permanent. The majority of these states appear to be in the south. Including my home state of Virginia. And the total number of people banned entirely from voting has been on the rise over the past 20 years. It  has grown from 3.3 million people in 1996 to 6.1 million in 2016. So if this is an intentional strategy to suppress voting rights, this has been rolling out slowly over the past several decades.

Most states will restore a non-violent, convicted felon’s right to vote once they have served their sentences. Once they have, their debt to society is paid, and restoring the rights of a citizen shouldn’t even be an issue up for debate. Unfortunately, in many states, it is. Fortunately in 2018, Florida passed a ballot initiative that would grant this right, ending the arbitrary process of reviewing individual petitions by the Governor and a board, asking such unconstitutional questions around one’s religious beliefs. However, not long after they passed this measure, Florida passed a new law requiring former felons to pay all their remaining court fees before they would be allowed to vote ( This is a poll tax, and it is unconstitutional. But Republicans are pushing to keep this in place. 

However, Republicans in the Florida still want to make a last play to keep people from voting who may likely not vote the way they want. Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa sponsored a bill requiring these ex felons to pay all fees and fines. But even this is unclear. One version of the bill also includes paying all victim restitution, which could be many thousands, of dollars

It is a bit presumptuous to assume that a former felons would come out and vote one way or another, but that doesn’t really matter. I really do think that with a truly fair election, in general, will benefit democrats more. If a free and fair election decides that a candidate from a party I don’t agree with has one, I have no issue that. But it’s about having a fair process and allowing people to decide for themselves.

In 2018, John Oliver produced a great segment covering the Florida law.

This past November, Florida voters decided to restore voting rights to former felons "upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation". 


 Good resource from the sentencing project on restoring voting rights to reformed felons.