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LOSING THE VOTE

The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States


Updated Material

Incarceration and Enfranchisement:
International Practices, Impact and Recommendations for Reform, 2003

Felony Disenfranchisement

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The right to vote freely for the candidate of oneís choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.

Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964)

Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizenís space...I want to walk calmly into a polling place with other citizens, to carry my placid ballot into the booth, check off my choices, then drop my conscience in the common box.

Joe Loya, disenfranchised ex-felon

Our democracy is weakened when one sector of the population is blocked out of the voting process.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., U.S. Congress

An eighteen-year-old first-time offender who trades a guilty plea for a nonprison sentence may unwittingly sacrifice forever his right to vote.

Andrew Shapiro, attorney

This report was written by Jamie Fellner, associate counsel of Human Rights Watch and Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project. Paul Hirschfield, a research associate of The Sentencing Project, conducted the principal data analysis. Mareke Aden, a Human Rights Watch intern, provided research assistance and Christina Portillo, a program associate of Human Rights Watch, also provided research and production assistance.

The Sentencing Project
The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization which promotes sentencing reform and conducts research on criminal justice issues. Research and preparation of this report was supported by grants from the Center on Crime, Communities, and Culture of the Open Society Institute, Public Welfare Foundation, and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that monitors and promotes the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Research and production of this report was supported by the Open Society Institute.

Copyright © 1998 Human Rights Watch and The Sentencing Project

For further information, contact:

The Sentencing Project
918 F Street, N.W., Suite 501
Washington, D.C. 20004
(202) 628-0871
http://www.sentencingproject.org

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 290-4700
http://www.hrw.org
 
  Table of Contents


I. OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY

II. FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES

III. CURRENT IMPACT OF DISENFRANCHISEMENT LAWS

IV. CRIME, CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES AND INCARCERATION

V. DISENFRANCHISEMENT LAWS CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED

VI. DISENFRANCHISEMENT IN OTHER COUNTRIES

VII. CONSTITUTIONALITY OF CRIMINAL DISENFRANCHISEMENT

VIII. U.S. CRIMINAL DISENFRANCHISEMENT UNDER INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

IX. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

APPENDIX
Methodology

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