"It's just not a credible argument to say that voting presents a threat to public safety," says Scott Novakowski, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which is pushing for restoration of voting rights for felons, including those currently serving time. "There's no justification for this practice. It's having a massive impact on communities of color."
The stakes are large. Nationwide, 6 million people with felony convictions are disenfranchised, including 4.7 million who have completed their prison sentences. The Florida ban alone affects 1.6 million, or 10 percent of the state's voting-age population. Florida is one of 33 states that doesn't automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons. (Two, Maine and Vermont, don't strip felons of their voting rights at all -- even while they're incarcerated...)
"New Jersey unfortunately has the greatest disparity in convictions," says Novakowski of the state's Institute for Social Justice. "A black adult is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult. This idea of tying the criminal justice system to the right to vote is furthering this inequality and reproducing it within the electorate."