/Study 11% of all Mississippians, 16% of Black Mississippians can’t vote because of felony convictions

Study 11% of all Mississippians, 16% of Black Mississippians can’t vote because of felony convictions

According to The Sentencing Project, an organization that supports voting rights and criminal justice issues, 10.6% of Mississippi’s population has lost their right to vote. From 2016 to 2016, Mississippi’s percentage of disenfranchised Black residents has risen from the second to the first. Mississippi has the third highest number of Black residents who are not eligible to vote, at 130,500. This is 16% of the voting age population. Third is Wyoming (36.22%), and Tennessee (21.65%). Both Mississippi’s percentages are significantly higher than the national averages. The national average for African Americans disenfranchised is 6.3%, while total felony disenfranchisement in Mississippi is 2.3%. A list of crimes that can result in a person being disenfranchised if convicted of a felony is contained in the Mississippi Constitution. It was written by white legislators in 1890. Official opinions of the attorney general’s have been issued over the years updating the original list of crimes that are disenfranchising to match modern criminal law. Arson, armed theft, bigamy and bribery are all disenfranchising offenses. Other crimes, like those connected with drug sales, do not result in a person being deprived of the right to vote. As one of many attempts to stop Black Mississippians voting, felony disenfranchisement was added to the state Constitution during the 1890s. The disenfranchisement language continues to have an effect on African Americans, who are still disproportionately convicted for crimes. Mississippi Today’s 2018 analysis found that 61% Mississippians have lost their right to vote, despite the fact African Americans making up 36% of the state’s total voting-age population. After a person is released from prison or has completed their probation and parole, most states allow them to vote again. People convicted of multiple crimes in Mississippi — some violent and some not — cannot have their voting rights restored unless they are voted for by both chambers of Congress or by a gubernatorial Pardon. READ MORE: Mississippi ex-felons can still vote, although not all of them are. Most years, legislation is introduced in the Legislature to restore voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentence. It has failed to pass the other chamber in previous years. Federal lawsuits are pending claiming permanent disenfranchisement is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The Legislature restored the right of voting to six felons in the 2020 session. 2019 saw the highest level of restoration of suffrage since 2004, when voting rights were restored at 34. The average number of felons restored to voting rights by the Legislature between 2000 and 2020 was 7.3 per year. The Sentencing Project found that Florida was the first state to have total felony disenfranchisement, at 10.4%. Mississippi was second, at 9.6%. In 2018, Florida voters approved a citizen sponsored initiative to restore voting rights for most people after they had served their sentences. However, 7.7% of Floridians convicted for felonies have not seen their rights restored. This is due to the fact that they have not paid fines and fees required by Florida’s Legislature. Mississippi has not passed any major reform like this. Christopher Uggen from the University of Minnesota, who led the research on the Sentencing Project report, said that Mississippi is one of the states with indefinite disenfranchisement. This means that Mississippi citizens are effectively denied voting rights for life. Many other states have relaxed those restrictions… Mississippi’s is for life. Uggen explained that if you have a 1972 felony conviction, you will still be barred from the process without any extraordinary effort. “But frankly, the number of Mississippi restorations, or people who go through this formal process, is very small.” Evidently, this is a remnant of the civil rights process in which we had restrictive laws in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of these laws still exist today. The Sentencing Project held an audio conference to release the report. It detailed how the number disenfranchised felons has dropped from more than 6 million in 2016 to 5.2 million in 2020, as states such as Florida have changed their laws. Governors in many states have issued executive orders that restore felons’ rights. Shahur Abdullah was a Nebraska prisoner who spent 41 years and created JustUs 15 Vote. His rights were restored after the Nebraska state changed its law to prohibit permanent imprisonment to allow for a two-year ban upon his release. His father, a Mississippian native, had been unable to vote in his state due to the Korean Conflict. Abdullah’s family moved from Philadelphia, Mississippi to Nebraska after his father died. Abdullah stated that he felt the support of his ancestors when he voted for the first-time, given my personal history and the history of this country of white supremacy and systemic racism. We should remember that the founding principle of this country was no taxation without representation. My release from prison entails that I pay taxes immediately. However, my vote was not accepted. This shouldn’t be the case.”