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Florida’s Black Neighborhoods Burdened by Lower Socio-Economic Conditions Linked to Returning Citizens’ Voting Disenfranchisement

WASHINGTON – A new report released today by Advancement Project’s national office, Democracy Disappeared: How Florida Silences the Black Vote through Felony Disenfranchisement, provides an unprecedented analysis of Black neighborhoods and Florida’s historic problem of felony disenfranchisement. In a neighborhood-level analysis, the report shows that Florida’s formerly incarcerated people overwhelmingly return to Black neighborhoods that have disparate levels of income, employment, education and child poverty compared to the rest of the state. The analysis shows a relationship between the number of Returning Citizens permanently disenfranchised under current Florida law and poor socio-economic conditions in a neighborhood.

“Florida leads the nation in the percentage of incarcerated citizens per capita. So it comes as no surprise that it also leads the nation in the number of disenfranchised Returning Citizens,” said Dwight Bullard, political director of New Florida Majority. “In order to correct both of these historical wrongdoings, Florida has to remove from its constitution the Jim Crow era law banning those with prior felony convictions from voting. Equally important, Florida has to address its failure to lend support to the communities to which these men and women return. Democracy Disappeared makes clear where those resources should be spent in order to begin the process of making these people whole again.”

This report comes just a month before Floridians take to the polls to decide whether or not residents with felony convictions should vote. A yes vote on the Amendment 4 ballot referendum would support the automatic restoration of voting rights for people with a felony record, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation.

Democracy Disappeared reveals the real impact of Florida’s law that deprives Returning Citizens of their right to vote,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s national office. “Black communities hard hit by mass incarceration suffer when large segments of the population can’t vote. This lack of political voice results in even less political power in these communities, leading these communities to suffer severe socio-economic consequences.”

Democracy Disappeared shows the degree to which Returning Citizens face incredibly challenging circumstances when they come home and maps how those neighborhoods are harmed by the state’s denial of voting rights to 1.6 million people with prior felony convictions. Advancement Project’s analysis examines the socio-economic conditions of key neighborhoods in 10 Florida counties with significant Black populations where Advancement Project’s national office and partners work on voting rights issues. Counties featured in the report include: Broward, Duval, Escambia, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach and Pinellas.

Read report.

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high-quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

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