by Alí Bustamante, Ph.D.
Across the U.S., more than 6.1 million citizens are disenfranchised because of felony convictions.1 Nearly half of these Americans live in our communities and contribute to society having fully completed sentences, including any term of parole or probation. Yet, these citizens are deprived of the right to vote because of antiquated laws intended to suppress the votes of marginalized communities, especially African Americans.
The Gulf South is home to 45.8 percent of all Americans disenfranchised because of felony convictions—more than a third of whom are African American.2 In the Gulf South, African Americans of voting age are more than twice as likely as the general population to experience felony disenfranchisement, 10.8 percent and 5.3 percent respectively (see Table 1).3 Nowhere in America is felony disenfranchisement more common than it is in Florida.
Florida leads the nation in both the total number of citizens disenfranchised because of felony convictions and in the share of the voting-age population that is disenfranchised. For perspective, the nearly 1.7 million Floridians suffering from felony disenfranchisement is greater than the total size of New Mexico’s voting-age population of almost 1.6 million.4 Between 2010 and 2016 alone, Florida’s disenfranchised population increased by almost 150,000.5 Today, felony disenfranchisement strips voting rights from more than 1 in 10 Floridians.