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Studies: Felon Laws Deprive Black Men of Right to Vote

Two new studies show that felon disenfranchisement laws have prevented large numbers of black men from exercising their right to vote.

As many as one of every seven black men in Atlanta who have been convicted of a felony, and one of every four in Providence, R.I., cannot vote in this year's election, according to a pair of studies released yesterday. The studies, the first to look at felon disenfranchisement laws' effect on voting in individual cities, add to a growing body of evidence that those laws have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans because the percentage of black men with felony convictions is much larger than their share of the general population. The study in Atlanta concluded that two-thirds of the gap in voter registration between black males and other ethnic and gender groups was attributable to Georgia's felon disenfranchisement law.

How to read this?

"We have the conventional wisdom that African-American males register to vote at lower rates because of political apathy," said the study's author, Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, a research and prisoners' rights group based in Washington. But the new data clearly indicate that "their registration is artificially suppressed by the disproportionate effect of their disenfranchisement."

How important is the felon vote?

Interest in the effect of felon disenfranchisement laws has increased since the presidential election of 2000, when George W. Bush won Florida by only 537 votes; an estimated 600,000 people in the state, most black, were barred from voting because of felony convictions.

This is our third post on this topic in two days...see here and here...because it's that important.

The studies are available to read or download. The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement In Atlanta, Georgia PDF Sentencing Project. 09/2004; Political Punishment: The Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement for Rhode Island Communities PDF Rhode Island Family Life Center. 09/2004

Here's more from the ACLU:

The war on crime and drugs has disproportionately targeted people of color for arrest, prosecution and long, mandatory prison sentences so that today, one-third of all black men in their twenties are either behind bars, on probation or. Voting districts created to provide fair representation have been undermined by lawmakers and by the courts, and felony disenfranchisement laws have robbed hundreds of thousands of minorities of their right to vote. Segregation and discrimination in housing opportunity still exists, and a backlash against affirmative action in employment and education threatens to slam the door of opportunity in the faces of those who are most deserving. Anti-immigrant laws have stripped away basic civil rights for many of the nation’s ethnic minorities.

We have come a long way since Jim Crow ruled the South, but deeply entrenched discrimination, subjugation, subordination, and racial violence are still with us and affect not only African-Americans, but Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Arab Americans as well."

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