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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Study Says Felon Voting Laws Dilute Blacks' Political Voice

WASHINGTON -- One in seven black men is currently disenfranchised from voting in the United States as a result of a felony conviction, according to a study released Wednesday by The Sentencing Project, a liberal Washington advocacy group.


About 510,000 black men are permanently disenfranchised due to laws in 13 states that strip convicted felons of the right to vote. Another 950,000 are temporarily ineligible to vote due to laws in other states that prohibit voting by persons in prison or on probation or parole, according to the study.


"While many of these individuals will regain their voting rights after completion of their sentence, the cumulative impact of such large numbers of persons being disenfranchised from the electoral process clearly dilutes the political power of the African American community," said Marc Mauer, co-author of "Intended and Unintended Consequences: State Racial Disparities in Imprisonment."


He added that one third of the estimated 4.2 million felons who are disenfranchised are black, who constitute only 12 percent of the U.S. population.


The disenfranchisement of such a large number of black men eligible to vote is "symbolically quite significant," but its practical ramifications are unclear, said David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based think tank specializing in black issues.


Bositis said it was possible that a low percentage of the disenfranchised individuals were not registered voters in the first place, since most of them are low-income people, whose propensity to vote is not high.


Nonetheless, he said the figures are disturbing because "a lot of people feel the criminal justice process is just one more way to disenfranchise blacks," many of whom didn't get the right to vote until the 1960s.


The Sentencing Project has been doing research on the impact of the criminal justice system for a decade and gained widespread attention for its 1995 study reporting that one in three young black males is under criminal justice supervision -- either imprisonment, parole or probation.