Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals in Mississippi.

5.2 million people in the United States are currently denied access to voting because of felony convictions. Voting rights should not be suspended once the individual has served their sentence.  They should be granted their rights back to vote. In a democracy, everyone has the right to vote and their privilege to vote shouldn’t be easily taken away. Once we decide one group of citizens is unworthy of the vote, that opens the door to the next group, and the next group until democracy ceases to exist. This is due to disenfranchisement and at this point in our society, the government of that state has the power to give the right to vote back to that individual.

Felony disenfranchisement in the United States is the suspension or withdrawal of voting rights due to the conviction of a criminal offense. Felony disenfranchisement affects more than individual voters themselves—it diminishes the voting strength of entire communities of color, which are too often already plagued with concentrated poverty, substandard housing, limited access to healthcare services, failing public schools, and environmental hazards. As a result, people in these communities have even less of an opportunity to affect much-needed positive change through the political process.

Due to differences in state laws and rates of criminal punishment, states vary widely in the practice of disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement rates vary widely across racial and ethnic groups and felony disenfranchisement provisions have an outsized impact on communities of color. Ethnicity data in particular have not been consistently collected or reported in the data sources used to compile our estimates. By 39% African Americans have had to deal with this problem as well as a high rise within the Latin American community.

States typically provide some limited process for disenfranchised individuals to restore their right to vote. These vary greatly in scope, eligibility requirements, and reporting practices. It is difficult to obtain consistent information about the rate and number of disenfranchised Americans whose rights are restored through these generally administrative procedures.

According to Britannica, for the state of Mississippi individuals convicted of a felony are barred from voting only if they have been convicted of one or more of the following felony crimes: murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, bigamy, armed robbery, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, larceny, receiving stolen property, robbery, timber larceny, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, statutory rape, carjacking, or larceny under lease or rental agreement.

To regain the ability to vote, an individual, after completion of his/her sentence, must go to his/her state representative and convince them to personally author a bill restoring the vote to that individual. Both houses of the legislature must then pass the bill. Re-enfranchisement can also be granted directly by the governor. However, individuals convicted of felonies in Mississippi remain eligible to vote for the U.S. President in federal elections.

Many programs across the United States are working along with their state legislation to improve the laws that have been set for the former disenfranchised so that when they do enter back into society they will have the right to vote.