6 Million Americans Can’t Vote Because of These Voting Laws

6 Million Americans Can’t Vote Because of These Voting Laws

How important is your right to vote? There are roughly 6 million Americans who can’t vote because of heavy-handed voting laws. In fact, some won’t be able to vote for the rest of their lives. Yes, they’re U.S. citizens, they pay their taxes, so what sets them apart from the rest of us? They’re ex-felons. Whoa there, don’t stop reading.

We’re not talking about people who have committed horrible crimes against humanity (unless you consider tax evasion or check fraud to be on the same level as murder or rape.) They’ve served their sentences and paid their penalties, but current voting laws for felons are blocking their way back to becoming full citizens again.

According to CNN, at least “11 states restrict or completely deny voting rights to prisoners even after they’ve completed sentences, probation and parole.” Felon voting laws vary from state-to-state but if you’re convicted in any of these four states (Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia), it’s a hard hit on your voting rights unless you earn clemency from the governor. You lose them for life.

However, that could change in Kentucky.

On Wednesday, after failing to pass for 8 years, a bill to restore felon voting rights cleared the Kentucky Senate.

“Michael Hiser and others who have fought to restore voting rights to felons in Kentucky found a powerful ally Wednesday in Sen. Rand Paul,” writes Scott Wartman on Cincinnati.com.

As Emma Roller of Slate eloquently describes it, Paul proposed a compelling argument before a Kentucky Senate committee that “giving people second chances benefits everyone.

“Kids do make mistakes. White kids make mistakes. Black kids make mistakes. Brown kids make mistakes,” Paul said. “But when you look at the prison population, three out of the four people in prison are black or brown.” (CNN)

…The criminal justice system, particularly the war on drugs, has disproportionately imprisoned African-Americans. Restoring voting rights to felons would be a step in the right direction, he said.

However, there was one change in House Bill 70 that left supporters for felon voters feeling unhappy: a five year waiting period.

It’s a compromise that Paul says is “better than never getting voting rights back.”

“I would say we’ve gone a long way from a bill that was never voted on in the Senate, never had a hearing on, to getting a hearing and getting a vote today,” said Paul. (Cincinnati.com)

However, could Sen. Paul’s support for changing voting laws for felons hurt him in the future? According to the New York Times, most of these felons “were far more likely to have voted for Democrats than for Republicans.” Rand isn’t like other Republicans, but will they remember what he did for them when it counts?

There is something deeply American about restoring the vote for people who are passionate about their role as citizens, but is this a good or bad move on Paul’s part? Tell us what you think in the comments below or send us a tweet on Twitter.


(Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes, via Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)


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