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Voting Rights Advocates Release New Report on Felony Disenfranchisement & Poor Reentry Supports in Mississippi

CONTACT
Jeralyn Cave, Advancement Project National Office, jcave@advancementproject.org
Ayana Kinnel, One Voice Mississippi, akinnel@uniteonevoice.org
Timothy Young, Mississippi Votes, timothy@msvotes.org

 Advocates Aim to Restore Voting Rights of Formerly Incarcerated Individuals with Release of ‘Our Voice, Our Vote’

JACKSON, Miss. – Today, Advancement Project National Office, in collaboration with One Voice and Mississippi Votes, released a new report Our Voices, Our Votes: Felony Disenfranchisement and Reentry in Mississippi. The report uplifts data and the lived experiences of returning citizens impacted by the state’s inadequate reentry resources, and the inefficient process for regaining the right to vote. At a press conference, advocates expressed why the state must automatically restore the right to vote to formerly incarcerated residents and reimagine the state’s inequitable criminal legal system.

Here are the facts:

  • In 2020, Mississippi had the 2nd highest incarceration rate in the country, including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities.
  • 235,152 people are disenfranchised (cannot vote due to a felony conviction) in Mississippi, nearly 11% of the state’s population.
  • While 62% of people incarcerated, on parole, or probation in Mississippi are Black, Black people make up less than 40% of the state’s population.

“This report sheds light on the unfair and unjust disenfranchisement practices in the state of Mississippi,” said One Voice Executive Director Nsombi Lambright-Haynes. “Our criminal justice system disproportionately targets Black Mississippians for arrest and incarceration, and then strips them of their political power. It doesn’t have to be this way. Mississippi must do better to support people returning home from prison, particularly by restoring and ensuring the right to vote.”

The report launch comes immediately ahead of a virtual advocacy day in which formerly incarcerated people will speak with state legislators to demand change.

“The report will be used as a tool to educate the public and advocate for criminal justice reform in Mississippi,” said Mississippi Votes Executive Director Arekia Bennett. “Mississippi has an opportunity to build a better future for our state by reversing our high rates of mass incarceration and voter disenfranchisement. Mississippi Votes and One Voice are committed to making that opportunity a reality.”

Voting rights advocates are pushing for several state policy proposals, rooted in the lived experience of the incarcerated including:

  1. Restore voting rights to everyone who has completed their prison term
  2. Establish a clear process and inclusive criteria for approving suffrage applications
  3. Limit the harms of the criminal justice system to better support reentry from prison
  4. Modernize our voter registration and election administration to reduce barriers to voting

“At a time when national leaders are working to increase equitable access to the ballot box, it is unconscionable that lawmakers have resisted efforts to overturn Jim Crow-era laws that silence one in ten Mississippians,” said Jorge Vasquez, Power and Democracy Director for Advancement Project National Office. “Refusing to dismantle a subjective and opaque process that denies the gross majority of applicants their right to vote can only be described as what it is: an effort to warp the state’s democracy.”

The full report can be found on the Advancement Project National Office website.

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Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org
One Voice is a nonprofit organization specializing in training, leadership development, and network building in underserved communities. Our mission is to ensure an equal voice to traditionally silenced communities. Visit https://onevoicems.org

Mississippi Votes is a nonprofit organization that aims to cultivate a transformative culture of civic engagement throughout the state of Mississippi, prioritizes youth, and advocates for a voter accessible Mississippi. Visit https://msvotes.org 

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