Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Felon Disenfranchisement by State

An estimated five million people nationwide are ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction, according to The Sentencing Project. Of these, three-fourths (3.5 million) are no longer incarcerated.

Felon Disenfranchisement Rates by State in 2004

The map below shows the percentage of the voting age population by state that was ineligible to vote in 2004 due to felony convictions.

View Larger Map

The convicted felon population includes incarcerated felons, as well as probationers, parolees and those who have completed their sentences. But felon disenfranchisement varies widely across states depending on state law. Maine and Vermont allow all felons (including those incarcerated) to vote. Kentucky and Virginia have the most restrictive laws, allowing ex-felons the right to vote only when granted by the state after a special appeal.

The Sentencing Project estimates that nationwide there are about two million disenfranchised African American felons, of whom nearly one million are ex-felons who have completed their sentences.

If you sort on the % African American Disenfranchised 2004 column in the interactive table below, you will see extremely high percentages in many states. Ten states had African American disenfranchisement rates above 15% in 2004. Rates for several of these states (for example, Wyoming) are likely skewed due to correctional facilities with out-of-state inmates who return to their home states after release from prison. But there are others in this group with sizable resident African American populations where skewing is not an issue -- i.e., Virginia, Florida, Delaware, and Alabama.

View Expanded Interactive Table

Current State Policy

Five states --Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, and Rhode Island -- have implemented major policy changes since 2004. The interactive chart below breaks out states according to their general policy of voting rights for felons.

View Interactive Chart

You can review details on policy changes (major and minor) that have occurred since 2004 via annual updates prepared by The Sentencing Project.

A Decade of Reform: Felony Disenfranchisement Policy in the United States (October 2006)

2006 Annual Update

2007 Annual Update

Sources and Additional Information

The charts and maps displayed above are based on data and an interactive map prepared by the The Sentencing Project. Policy changes that have occurred since December 2004 are not reflected in the numbers.

The Sentencing Project data is not completely consistent with data we used to calculate voter registration rates in previous posts. Those maps and charts rely on survey estimates from the Census Bureau's 2004 Current Population Survey, which excludes persons in correctional facilities and halfway houses from the population base. Non-incarcerated disenfranchised felons are included in the CPS, which means that the voter eligible unregistered population is overestimated by the CPS in states where voting rights are not restored to felons upon release from prison.

In addition to the felon disenfranchisement material from The Sentencing Project, information on this important issue is available on web pages developed by the ACLU (2008 toolkit), the Advancement Project, the Brennan Center, MALDEF, NAACP, and the Prison Policy Institute.

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