According to The Sentencing Project, 5.17 million people have been legally stripped their right to vote based on a felony conviction.
The prison-industrial complex suppresses our people’s right to political power long after they are freed from the prison’s walls.
Since the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1869, the Black vote has been actively suppressed. Correspondent Mumia Abu-Jamal emphasizes that “the prisoner exclusion from voting arises from state attempts to weaken Black political power after Reconstruction, which outlawed all Black voting under white supremacist legislatures and governments.”
Abu-Jamal explains the true intention of preventing those with a felony conviction from voting: to uphold a white supremacist state. The Black Codes of the late 1860s have merely put on a new face; as according to The Sentencing Project, one in every 16 Black people is disenfranchised.
Until 2018, Florida was one of the 11 states that indefinitely denied people with a felony conviction the right to vote. The passage of Amendment 4 in 2018—a landmark piece of legislation—changed that, granting voting rights to the formerly incarcerated once they had completed their imprisonment and parole. Amendment 4 should have restored the right to vote to 1.4 million Floridians.
But Florida’s conservative legislature moved quickly to undermine this decision, passing a law that required people to pay back all their court fees before they could get their hands on a ballot. This is a modern-day poll tax, timed and designed to suppress Florida’s Black vote in the coming November 2020 election, when Florida might well decide the fate of the country.
In the months leading up to Florida’s (just recently passed) October voter registration deadline, the grassroots organization Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has raced to help an estimated 40,000 people pay off their court fees, according to Politico. The final tally on re-enfranchised Floridians at the close of registration was 67, 000.
We may be about to win back the vote for some folks in California as well. This year’s ballot includes Proposition 17, a vital measure that would allow people to register to vote as soon as they left prison. This is an essential shift; as correspondent Shakaboona said, “America is a nation that prides itself at being the best democratic government in the world, but such grandiose pronouncements are hypocrisy and mass deception at best [when]… incarcerated citizens are denied their right to vote in elections.”
We must destroy the voting laws that date back to the Jim Crow Era and end the disenfranchisement of people who have felony convictions. Because as of now, millions of people are silenced on November 3rd.
When We Fight, We Win!
Staff Member Prison Radio