According to a recent report from the Brennan Center, Florida is one of only three states with a lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions. That means disenfranchisement for 1.6 million citizens, including 21 percent of the state’s voting-age African Americans.
The report comes as Florida’s Supreme Court considers a grass-roots initiative to put a measure on the 2018 ballot that would restore most of those voting rights. That initiative has surprising support from many in law-enforcement and corrections – evidence from Florida suggests that voting makes criminal behavior less likely.
The report also documents the extent of change in disenfranchisement laws across the country. Over the last two decades, more than 20 states have allowed more people with past convictions to vote, to vote sooner, or to access that right more easily. In 2016, Maryland’s legislature enfranchised more than 40,000 people, Delaware removed financial barriers to rights restoration, and Virginia’s governor committed to restoring voting rights for over 200,000 citizens.