Over five million people in the United States are denied the right to vote because of felony convictions – one in thirteen African American men, over 600,000 women, and half a million veterans. The numbers have been increasing since the 1970s because of an incarceration boom fueled by mandatory minimum sentences, truth in sentencing laws, and the drug war.
In addition to those who have been disfranchised, there are many people out there who don’t vote because they’re not sure whether they can or not. The situation changes from state to state. There are eleven states where some felony convictions can lead to permanent disfranchisement. In one such state, over 1 million people can’t vote because of felony convictions. Five states restore voting rights after release from prison and completion of parole. Nineteen states restore voting rights after completion of prison, parole and probation. In12 states, voting rights are restored immediately after release from prison. Click here to check what the situation is in your state.
As Americans, we hold up our ideals for democracy as a model for the rest of the world. Yet the United States is one of the few western democratic nations that excludes such large numbers of people from the democratic process for so long. That’s something that most Americans are not aware of. So learn more. Screen the film. Organize an event. Take a look at the resources we offer here and use them to make our democracy better.