Earlier this year, the Sentencing Project gave an update on felon disenfranchisement in the United States. Currently, 5.85 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses. Only two states–Maine and Vermont–do not restrict the voting rights of anyone with a felony conviction, even while in prison.
However, incarcerated individuals represent a minority of the total disenfranchised population. In fact, 75% of disenfranchised voters live in their communities, either under probation or parole supervision or having completed their sentence. An estimated 2.6 million people are disenfranchised in states that restrict voting rights even after completion of sentence.
Public opinion surveys report that 8 in 10 U.S. residents support voting rights for citizens who have completed their sentence, and nearly two-thirds support voting rights for those on probation or parole. Since 1997, 23 states have modified laws to expand voter eligibility for ex-offenders and as a result an estimated 800,000 citizens regained the right to vote from 1997 to 2010.
Even in states where the voting rights of ex-offenders are restored, myths about ineligibility are often rampant. Know the law in your state and ensure that your organization is sharing current and accurate information with your community.