The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on the United States to restore voting rights automatically to people with felony convictions after completion of their criminal sentence. The panel raised concern that current disenfranchisement policies have a disparate racial and ethnic impact and may be in violation of international law.
The practice of denying voting rights to people with felony convictions in the U.S. disenfranchises 5.3 million citizens, says the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project. Eleven states restrict voting by people even after they have completed their sentence, including prison, probation, and parole, and many are barred for life. About 1.5 million people are disenfranchised post-sentence. The Sentencing Project says that 1 in 50 African-American women cannot vote, an increase of nearly 14 percent since 2000. This rate of disenfranchisement is nearly four times the rate for non-African-American women. Overall, an estimated 792,200 women are ineligible to vote as a result of U.S. felony disenfranchisement laws. Under current incarceration rates, three in ten of the next generation of black men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point.