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Democracy’s Silent Voices

Marquel Lee

SOC 364



Democracy’s Silent Voices

Felon disenfranchisement discredits the United States’ claim that it is a strong democracy. In 48 states across the US, convicted felons are denied the right to vote. Convicted felons who have completed and served their time should be granted the right to vote. We need to allow felons the right to vote because it is the most crucial fundamental right we have in our constitution as a democracy. After these felons have served their time, they still must live an everyday life in the same democracy as the rest of society. So why do they not have the right to choose how they are being governed? These citizens not having this right has a major impact on democracy and elections. Felon disenfranchisement is a denial of rights and violates the constitution, it is racist and discriminatory, and it makes convicted felons outcasts in society.

Felon disenfranchisement is a national issue but the individual states control the right to vote. Different states carry different laws on disenfranchisement. For example in Florida if you are convicted of a felony you no longer have the right to vote for the rest of your life, where as in North Carolina once a felon has served his or her time, they gain their right to vote back.

The disenfranchisement of convicted felons had a serious impact on the 2016 election. There were close to five million prisoners that were not able to vote this year, this is not to say Hillary Clinton would of own but five million votes would have affected the Presidential race either way. There were also almost two million people in prison that were not convicted of a crime and not allowed to vote due to being in jail, so almost seven million people were stripped of their basic constitutional right. These numbers are staggering and an absolute disgrace for a country that prides itself for being known as the land of the people. Only 2.5%, 5.8 million people in the voting age population were made ineligible to vote by felon voting laws in 2016, according to the Sentencing Project. That percentage tripled to 7.7% among African Americans. Now seeing that most felons are minorities the Democratic Party was at a grave disadvantage in the most recent election because more of their supporters are minorities. This is an example of party alignment. This issue dates back in history and ties into

Looking past, the affect felon disenfranchisement has on the election, we also need to take a deep look at racial discrimination. Blacks and Hispanics have more of a prison population than they do total US

So, we take away a felon’s voice by not allowing them to vote then we outcast them with a scarlet letter once they are granted a release from prison. We say they did their time in prison and are free after that, but the truth is they are not as some end up going back because the resentment they face in society. We shun many felons and do not give them that second chance they so desperately strive . This second chance at being a normal citizen is what they might need to stay out of trouble and decrease recidivism. The right to vote will be an incentive for these felons and they will feel a part of society and have a voice. This makes for a better democracy. As Perrin says in his book “For democracy to make sense, people need to be able to feel and then act as part of a public” (Perrin, 2014). Convicted felons who have served their time are people to so why can’t they feel part of the public, and why can’t their voices be heard? Democracy’s Silent Voices need to be heard.












Alexander, Michelle; West, Cornel (2012). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.comBibliography

Behrens, A., Uggen, C., & Manza, J. (2003). Ballot manipulation and the “menace of negro domination”: Racial threat and felon disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850–2002. American Journal of Sociology, 109(3), 559–605.

Mauer, M. (2000). Felon voting disenfranchisement: A growing collateral consequence of mass incarceration. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 12(5), 248–251.

ReckdahlTwitter, K., & Widmer, W. (2016, September 5). How voting laws squelch urban America’s voice: Millions have been denied the right to cast a ballot after getting out of prison, but now they’re organizing a return to the polls. Forefront. Retrieved from

Perrin, A. J. (2014). American democracy: From Tocqueville to town halls to Twitter.

Uggen, C., & Manza, J. (2002). Democratic contraction? political consequences of felon disenfranchisement in the United States. American Sociological Review, 67(6), 777–803.


Marquel • December 14, 2016

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