« A few crime and punishment stories from the campaign trail | Main | Just why is it "not in the public’s best interest" for the feds to refuse to transfer to Oklahoma a prisoner scheduled for execution? »

October 25, 2022

"Locked Out 2022: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction"

The title of this post is the title of this new report released today by The Sentencing Project.  Here is the report's overview:

Laws in 48 states ban people with felony convictions from voting. In 2022, an estimated 4.6 million Americans, representing 2 percent of the voting-age population, will be ineligible to vote due to these laws or policies, many of which date back to the post-Reconstruction era.  In this election year, as the United States confronts questions about the stability of its democracy and the fairness of its elections, particularly within marginalized communities, the impact of voting bans on people with felony convictions should be front and center in the debate.

This 2022 report updates and expands upon 20 years of work chronicling the scope and distribution of felony disenfranchisement in the United States (see Uggen, Larson, Shannon, and Pulido-Nava 2020; Uggen, Larson, and Shannon 2016; Uggen, Shannon, and Manza 2012; Manza and Uggen 2006; Uggen and Manza 2002).  As in 2020, we present national and state estimates of the number and percentage of people disenfranchised due to felony convictions, as well as the number and percentage of the Black and Latinx populations impacted.  Although these and other estimates must be interpreted with caution, the numbers presented here represent our best assessment of the state of felony disenfranchisement as of the November 2022 election.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • An estimated 4.6 million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, a figure that has declined by 24 percent since 2016, as more states enacted policies to curtail this practice and state prison populations declined modestly. Previous research finds there were an estimated 1.2 million people disenfranchised in 1976, 3.3 million in 1996, 4.7 million in 2000, 5.4 million in 2004, 5.9 million in 2010, 6.1 million in 2016, and 5.2 million in 2020.

  • One out of 50 adult citizens — 2 percent of the total U.S. voting eligible population — is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.

  • Three out of four people disenfranchised are living in their communities, having fully completed their sentences or remaining supervised while on probation or parole.

  • In three states — Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee — more than 8 percent of the adult population, one of every 13 adults, is disenfranchised.

  • Florida remains the nation’s disenfranchisement leader in absolute numbers, with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting, often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions. An estimated 934,500 Floridians who have completed their sentences remain disenfranchised, despite a 2018 ballot referendum that promised to restore their voting rights.

  • One in 19 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate 3.5 times that of non-African Americans. Among the adult African American population, 5.3 percent is disenfranchised compared to 1.5 percent of the adult non-African American population.  More than one in 10 African American adults is disenfranchised in eight states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia. 

  • Although data on ethnicity in correctional populations are unevenly reported and undercounted in some states, a conservative estimate is that at least 506,000 Latinx Americans or 1.7 percent of the voting eligible population are disenfranchised.  Approximately 1 million women are disenfranchised, comprising over one-fifth of the total disenfranchised population.

October 25, 2022 at 02:30 PM | Permalink


In Kentucky, where I live, the Constitutional rule was lifetime disenfranchisement for former felons who had completed their sentences, until and unless the filed an application for a restoration of civil rights (a kind of partial pardon) with the Governor. Over the past 50 years, Republican and Democratic Governors were highly variable about how many of those applications they granted, restoring voting rights. Former Republican Governor Matt Bevin revoked the Executive Order that his Democratic predecessor, had signed near then end of his term, automatically restoring the voting rights of most former felons (except those convicted of murder, rape, incest, arson and a handful of other violent or sexual crimes). When Steve Beshear's son, Andy Beshear, defeated Matt Bevin by 5,300 votes to become Governor, the first thing he did was to reinstate his father's Executive Order, automatically restoring the voting rights of most former felons. It remains to be seen whether this kind of automatic blanket restoration will persist if Gov. Andy Beshear is defeated in November 2023 by a Republican (former U. N. Ambassador Kelly Craft or current Ky. Attorney General Daniel Cameron). Before Gov. Beshear's Executive Order was entered, 30% of Kentucky's negro population (33% of black men and 26% of black women) could not vote because they were former felons whose civil rights had not been restored by the Governor. For white people the rate was only about 7% of the population. Until Gov. Andy Beshear, the situation was scandalous here in Kentucky.

When discussing this issue, I like to remind people that the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election (Bush v. Gore in Florida) was really determined by the fact that more than 800,000 former felons in Florida could not register to vote, in an election the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Secretary of State ("hanging chads!) found was won by 635 votes by George W. Bush. When Florida voters (by 66% of the vote) approved the restoration of voting rights for Florida felons a few years ago, the Republican-controlled legislature put legislative gloss on the law, by requiring former felons to pay all outstanding fines, restitution and court costs before they could register to vote again. Many Florida Court clerks have been unable to tell former felon how much they owe, so how can they pay it? Voting matters.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Oct 25, 2022 5:33:30 PM

Let me correct the number! George W. Bush won Florida's electoral votes in 2000 by 537 votes (not 635 as I wrote above) out of almost 6 million votes cast. The total population of Florida in 2000 was more than 16 million people.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Oct 25, 2022 5:39:57 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB