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Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia

NCJ Number
Ryan S. King; Marc Mauer
Date Published
September 2004
26 pages
This study reviewed the policy of disenfranchising persons with felony convictions.
The expanding criminal justice system is the reason why the policy of felony disenfranchisement has taken on huge dimensions, and why its future impact, particularly in communities of color, is likely to be even more significant. Disenfranchisement laws are controlled at the State level, allowing each State to control the categories from which felons are prohibited from voting. In 48 States and the District of Columbia, all incarcerated persons are ineligible to vote. In addition, 35 States prohibit parolees from voting, 31 States do not allow felony probationers to vote, and in 14 States a felony conviction can lead to the loss of voting rights for life. Atlanta was selected for this study because Georgia maintains the most sophisticated databases of persons under correctional supervision. The State of Georgia lies mid-range nationally in terms of the restrictiveness of its disenfranchisement policy. As of September 2003, of the 6 million Georgians of voting age, 3.3 percent are disenfranchised, a rate 43 percent higher than the national mean of 2.3 percent. In Atlanta, 5 percent of the voting population is disenfranchised. Drug offenses play a large role in Georgia’s disenfranchisement policies. An estimated 30.8 percent of all persons under correctional supervision in Georgia have been convicted of drug offenses as their most serious charge. The impact of disenfranchisement extends beyond issues of criminal justice and into the fundamental principles of political participation in a democratic society. The consequences affect the ability of communities to express their political voice. These barriers also affect public safety and reintegration through lack of legal social participation. Policymakers in Georgia should consider the recommendations put forth in this study to encourage greater participation in voting and expand the size of the electorate. Tables, figures, appendixes