In the November election, a significant amount of Florida residents won’t be casting ballots. The critical swing state enforces felon disenfranchisement laws that forbids felons from voting. The New York Times reports how this denial of voting rights works a substantial effect, since 10.4% of the population of the state are felons
Felon disenfranchisement laws vary by state, as some enforce them harsher than others. Maine and Vermont, for instance, don’t put any restrictions on felons, as they can even vote while incarcerated in these states. Yet swing states such as Florida, Iowa, and Virginia don’t allow felons to vote at all. A report from the non-profit organization, the Sentencing Project, found 6.1 million people will not be able to vote in November’s election because of the strictness of these laws. Christopher Uggen, one of the lead authors of the report, said these laws were essentially created to teach felons a lesson, but that does more harm than good:
“The message that comes across to them is: Yes, you have all the responsibilities of a citizen now, but you’re basically still a second-class citizen because we are not permitting you to be engaged in the political process.”
But some believe the state’s stance on felons in some ways “punishes” African American voters. The Sun Sentinel editorial board reported these laws punish the African-American community, as one in four are not able to cast a ballot. And these laws ultimately affects their rehabilitation, as they are treated as second class citizens. The publication said the state’s Republican leaders should be doing more to help:
“The policy mocks the principles of liberty and minimal government regulation espoused by its defenders, the state’s Republican leaders. Instead of hindering ex-felons from voting because they might support Democrats, GOP leaders should be working harder to convince them that their interests — starting with a stronger state economy that creates more opportunities — would be best advanced by voting Republican.”
Florida is not the only state that has been shown to discourage minorities from voting. Georgia and North Carolina are but a few others that have enacted controversial laws to forbid African Americans from hitting the polls.