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what? incarcerated people can't vote? people convicted of felonies can't vote?

Wait, I must have missed part of social studies -- people who were convicted of felonies can't vote!
Actually, I've done some research, and it turns out that in many states, the right to vote is automatically restored when a person finishes serving a sentence, parole, and probation.
However, in the states that I've checked, people who are incarcerated can't vote. How the hell is this legal?

Part of the Fourteenth amendment:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

So -- from that we learn that people denied the right to vote because they're incarcerated still count towards the population count for purposes of determining representation. Oof. I looked through the rest of the amendments, and as far as I can tell, it's not legal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, previous condition of servitude, age above eighteen.... but it seems to be legal to remove the right to vote because people are incarcerated.

This really bothers me. It takes all the inequities of the criminal justice system, magnifies them, and perpetuates them. Incarceration could be a time when people learn about how to participate in democracy. Damn.

Reader Comments (1)

You really need to see Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election. It goes through all of this in gory detail.

9.26.2004 at 02:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterdanah boyd

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