U.N. Committee Urges U.S. to Reform Disenfranchisement Laws

[Courtesy of The Sentencing Project]

Dear Friends,

The United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today called on the U.S. to automatically restore voting rights to people with felony convictions upon completion of their criminal sentence, and raised concern that such policies have a disparate racial and ethnic impact and may be in violation of international law.

"The Committee remains concerned about the disparate impact that existing felon disenfranchisement laws have on a large number of persons belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities, in particular African-American persons, who are disproportionately represented at every stage of the criminal justice system," concluded the Committee in their recommendations to the U.S. Government.

The widespread practice of denying voting rights to people with felony convictions in the United States disenfranchises 5.3 million citizens. Eleven states restrict voting by people even after they have completed their sentence, including prison, probation and parole, and many are barred for life. Approximately 1.5 million people are disenfranchised post-sentence. No other democratic nation disenfranchises people for life even after completion of sentence, and many impose no restrictions at all on people with felony convictions.

These recommendations come on the heels of new research conducted by The Sentencing Project that finds 1 in 50 African-American women cannot vote, an increase of nearly 14% since 2000. This rate of disenfranchisement is nearly four times the rate for non-African-American women.Overall, an estimated 792,200 women are ineligible to vote as a result of U.S. felony disenfranchisement laws.

Currently, an estimated 1.4 million African-American men, 13%, are locked out of the ballot box, a rate seven times the national average. Given current rates of incarceration, three in ten of the next generation of black men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime.

To view a copy of the Committee's recommendations, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/co/CERD-C-USA-CO-6.pdf.

To learn more about U.S. felony disenfranchisement policy and its impact, see these reports by The Sentencing Project: Felony Disenfranchisement Rates for Women and Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States.

Location: 
United States

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