Disenfranchisement Pros And Cons

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The political debate for and against felon disenfranchisement has compelling arguments on both sides. In the US, over 6 million felons are barred from voting due to laws that prevent felons with a sentence to vote (Chung). The number of imprisoned has been growing over the past 40 years, as the increasing number of imprisoned felons is directly correlated with an increasing number of disenfranchised felons. However, a more jarring statistic reveals that most disenfranchised felons in the United States are of a racial or ethnic minority. Based on information from the 2010 US Census Bureau, about 36 percent of disenfranchised felons are African American. The large percentage also puts a different scope on felon disenfranchisement laws as these …show more content…

The Voting Rights Act was passed in order to stop states from prohibiting any laws or actions that could potentially hinder the ability for a minority to vote (DMS Chapter 3). This act gives the federal government more power in how states run elections. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is what defines a state’s ability to not being able to pass a discriminatory disenfranchisement law. This section centers on voter dilution, which are the processes that make voting for candidates difficult for racial or ethnic minorities (Clark lecture, Jan. 25). On the basis of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, felony disenfranchisement laws can be seen as a form of voter dilution because these laws are disproportionally affecting a large number of African American minorities in prison. The discussion of whether felony disenfranchisement laws violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act can be seen the Supreme Court case, Hayden v. Pataki. This court case was filed in 2003 and the plaintiffs of the case are challenging the felony disenfranchisement laws of New York. The plaintiffs argued that these laws were a violation of the second section of the Voting Rights Act because it disenfranchised a larger number of blacks and Latinos in prison than whites (“Key Issues in Hayden v. Pataki”). In the end, a majority of the judges ruled that the section 2 of the VRA is too ambiguous, thus the section cannot be applied to the felony disenfranchisement laws in New York, as the original intent of the VRA was not focused on felon disenfranchisement laws (“Key Issues in Hayden v. Pataki”). However, based on the dissenting opinions of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the second section of the Voting Rights Act clearly states that no state should be able to pass a law that emplaces a “voter qualification”, which bars a certain racial minority’s ability to vote (Goldstein

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