On November 6, there were about 6.1 million voters that did not have their voices heard because of felony disenfranchisement. In 48 states people convicted of felony offenses are not allowed to vote. Many states do not allow people on probation or parole to vote and a few do not allow convicted felons to vote even after serving their full sentence. This amounts to about 6.1 million votes that will not be counted, 6.1 million people who cannot participate in our democracy despite still being considered citizens.
It is a miscarriage of justice to strip voting rights from those who are serving their time, even for violent offenses. It is a constitutional right for each American citizen of voting age to be given the opportunity to vote, but a large population has been denied that right. Being in prison does not mean that they do not deserve their basic rights.
Recently, Florida has been fighting against felony disenfranchisement with Amendment 4. The Florida legislature realized the institutionalized racism engrained in felony disenfranchisement, with the outrageous numbers of minority groups being imprisoned in comparison to white groups, and sought out to fix this. In a poll, 71 percent of voters in Florida support Amendment 4.
At the NAACP National Convention in July 2015 Barack Obama stated, " …I'm going to shine a spotlight on this issue, because while the people in our prisons have made some mistakes — and sometimes big mistakes — they are also Americans, and we have to make sure that as they do their time and pay back their debt to society that we are increasing the possibility that they can turn their lives around… And if folks have served their time, and they've reentered society, they should be able to vote" .
Our society does not need to further punish felons by taking away their right to vote, during their sentence and after. The representatives we are all voting for are the ones who make laws, help establish re-entry programs, and reform our criminal justice system, and even people who have previously broken the law deserve a chance to have their needs represented in government. The reality is that the outcome of the election may be very different if felony disenfranchisement did not exist.
Voting is not a privilege in this country, it is a right, and it is a right that should never be taken away.