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The Case Against Felon Voting

Today, from the bluest of the blue to the reddest of the red, almost every single state in the Union—forty-eight out of fifty—forbids felons from voting to varying degrees. The District of Columbia also has a felon disenfranchisement law on its books to which the U.S. Congress acquiesced. And although some states have restored the franchise to felons who have finished serving their sentences, the vast majority of states have continued to retain and adopt laws that prohibit felons from voting during their terms in prison. For example, convicts in Massachusetts could vote, even while in jail, until 2000. That November, however, the Bay State’s voters faced a ballot question on a proposed state constitutional amendment to take away the incarcerated felons’ franchise. The amendment passed by a landslide, with sixty percent voting yes and only thirty-four percent voting no.4 So, too, with Utah. Incarcerated felons had the right to vote there until 1998, when the state’s voters similarly approved a constitutional amendment taking away the felons’ franchise.5 The proposition passed virtually by acclamation, eighty-two percent to eighteen percent.