In the United States today, 13% of all black men are denied the right to vote because they have been convicted of a felony.
Felon disfranchisement, as this phenomenon is called, is a stain on our democracy left by laws intended at their inception to prevent newly freed slaves from participating in the political process. Black people, just 12% of the U.S. population, comprise 38% of those denied their voting rights because of a felony conviction.
Only two states, Vermont and Maine, place no voting restrictions on people with a felony conviction. But as California implements criminal justice reform, it has an opportunity to take a leading role by curtailing its own use of felony convictions to deny voting access.
Read Janai Nelson’s full op-ed here.