Nationally, about 4 million released felons have lost the right to vote at least temporarily, if not permanently, says the Associated Press. To return to the ballot box, felons must negotiate suffrage laws that vary from state to state. Nonprofit groups and individual activists making the push on felons’ behalf agree the effort is broader this year than in previous elections. They expect that effort to benefit Barack Obama more than John McCain, given that the population of former felons is disproportionately black.
Obama has co-sponsored a Senate measure that would allow all ex-felons to vote. McCain has said states should decide whether felons have voting rights. He believes ex-felons should forfeit certain rights when they commit a serious crime and that the right to vote should be restored only on a case-by-case basis _ much like Virginia’s process. About 13 percent of black men nationwide have lost the right to vote, says the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. “Of course I would go with Barack,” said Deshawn Tatem, a dreadlocked drug dealer-turned-activist from Chesapeake, Va. He never has cast a ballot. “Right at 18, I caught the felony.”