The Lasting Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement
By Alexis McKenney
In 1868, only three years after the end of the Civil War, Florida amended its state constitution to permanently ban people with prior felony convictions from voting, even after they completed their sentences. This law was part of a larger trend of violent backlash in former slave states that aimed to limit the political power of newly freed Black communities through criminalization and disenfranchisement. Today, Florida is one of four states that still denies voting rights to Returning Citizens, or formerly incarcerated people.
Of the 1.68 million Florida residents that are unable to vote, 60 percent of those individuals are Black. Advancement Project’s new report, Democracy Disenfranchised: How Florida Silences the Black Vote through Felony Disenfranchisement, analyzes the lasting impact of the disenfranchisement of Black Returning Citizens and the communities to which they return.
In addition to the usual barriers that come with transitioning back into public life (such as finding a job and reconciling with loved ones), Democracy Disenfranchised also details how Returning Citizens are coming back to communities that are under-resourced and suffer from low incomes, high unemployment rates, and schools that fail Black and Brown students. This isn’t a coincidence or a mistake, but rather a crucial aspect of the cycle of poverty and criminalization of Black communities in Florida and throughout the country.
Democracy Disenfranchised takes an in-depth analysis of the 10 counties where Black Returning Citizens are located, and makes recommendations on how to dismantle the negative effects of mass incarceration and disenfranchisement in Florida. Among the seven recommendations made by Advancement Project, is a call to end felony disenfranchisement in Florida. This particular recommendation is extremely timely as one of the major statewide ballot initiatives in Florida would automatically restore voting rights to Returning Citizens which presents an impactful opportunity for the Florida communities affected by felony disenfranchisement.
Explore the report and check out our Interactive Map to see how Florida communities are affected by felony disenfranchisement. You can also connect with us on these issues on social media using #DemocracyDisappeared.