The topic of felon disenfranchisement has become a highly contested topic as of late. The current Presidential Administration in what would appear to be a hollow declaration and political posturing has recently directed Attorney General Eric Holder to decree the racially motivated and archaic Jim Crow driven practice be restructured or more likely abolished. And in what would appear as the trump card in an already racially sensitive society Atty. Gen Eric Holder states in his address to the Georgetown University Law Center on criminal justice reform that “although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable. Throughout America, 2.2 million black citizens – or nearly one in 13 African-American adults – are banned from voting because of these laws. In three states – Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia – that ratio climbs to one in five” (Eric H. Holder, 2014)
I. History of Disenfranchisement
The practice of excluding criminals from participation in general social activities because of their criminal acts “originated in ancient Greece” as stated by George Brooks in the Fordham Urban Law Journal.” (Brooks, 2005) Originally the perpetrators of crime were punished with what was called a civil death wherein the individuals were forbidden to participate in all civil functions and excluded from owning property or even entering into contracts with other parties. The practice of civil death was designed to deter individuals from criminal acts and would remove them from society with a lifelong punishment.
Evolution of American Disenfranchisement
While voting rights have evolved throughout U.S. history from originally only allowing white land owners to vote to eventually include racial minorities and women through the suffrage movement disenfranchisement has evolved only to a point. Originally “the first disenfranchisement laws in America appeared in the 1600s, typically as punishment for morality crimes such as drunkenness” (Brooks, 2005) from the years of 1800 to the year 1949 nearly every state in the Union voted, established and supported felon disenfranchisement laws. The mentalities of felon or criminal voting rights had all but stalled until 1965 when the voting right of felons began to be looked at under new mentalities. Several states begin expanding felon disenfranchisement and despite the practice being highly contested the high court’s found the laws reasonable and constitutional.
Today pro enfranchisement supporters are petitioning for revisions of the old standard and are being met with opposition from State governments citing Article I, Section Two of the United States Constitution, which provides that “the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors...