Politics

More Than 1.8 Million People Can’t Vote This Tuesday

While candidates and pundits alike are preparing for what has been deemed another Super Tuesday, there are more than 1.8 million people who live in the five March 15 primary states who can’t exercise their right to vote.

All but two states prohibit felons from voting, and 31 continue restricting the right for people on probation, parole, or those who have already completed their sentences. In fact, an estimated 5.85 million people across the country can’t vote because of current or previous felony convictions.

Florida, one of the states set to vote in the primary on March 15, has some of the strictest laws in the country. The Sunshine State disenfranchises felons for life, and one in four African Americans in the state cannot vote. ThinkProgress’ Alice Ollstein spoke with some of them this week.

Of the states holding primaries on Tuesday, Ohio and Missouri have the least restrictive laws. Both prohibit voting in prison, but reinstate the right to vote after the individual completes his sentence. North Carolina, on the other hand, restricts voting through parole and probation.

These kinds of restrictions are not necessarily seen around the world. Dozens of countries allow prisoners to vote, including Canada, Germany, South Africa, and Israel.

Proponents of disenfranchisement often argue the laws are a form of punishment, but even death row inmates retain an array of constitutional rights. And as multiple studies show a link between disenfranchisement and recidivism, we have to ask: why restrict the right to vote?