Felons enfranchisement could alter the outcome of November elections

by Eve Robert // Published October 3, 2008
Felons don't have the right to vote in most of the states considered "competitive" in the 2008 presidential race. In 3 of the most crucial battleground states – Florida, Virginia, and Nevada- most people convicted of felonies have many obstacles in regaining their voting rights. Yet, if these citizens could vote, it would likely have a significant impact on the outcome of the election. Some examples:

In Florida, where Bush won by only 381,147 votes in 2004, there's a high probability that in November the gap between the two candidates won't exceed a 1 to 3 percentage points. Yet, about 1,179,687 people are currently disenfranchised in this State--which represents more than 9% of the population according to Sentencing Project.

In Nevada, where polls also predict a close election (Bush won by only 21 500 votes in 2004), 43,594 felons won't have the right to cast a ballot this November (2.63%) of the population.

Since incarceration rates are racially disproportionate, banning people with felony convictions from voting results in significantly limiting the number of African-Americans who can vote. In Virginia, Florida, and Washington State, more than 15% of the African-American voting age population is disenfranchised because of felony convictions (19.76%, 18.82%, and 17.22%, respectively). In all States, these rates are far over the general population disenfranchisement rate – with a nationwide average of 13% of black men unable to vote.

As incarceration rates keep growing, the felon disenfranchisement phenomenon becomes increasingly likely to alter the results of elections. Blocking one sector of the population out of the voting process obviously casts a doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral outcomes and significantly weakens our democracy.