A new report from The Sentencing Project found that state felony disenfranchisement reform has succeeded in expanding voting rights to many with criminal convictions. The group said that the U.S.’s investment in mass incarceration and varying state laws have disproportionately affected Black and Latinx residents, leading to many being banned from voting due to a felony conviction. Over 4.6 million Americans with a felony conviction were disenfranchised as of 2022. However, advocacy efforts from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated activists, organizers, legislators and others have successfully enacted reforms to expand voting rights. These changes reduced the total number of people disenfranchised by 24% since reaching its peak in 2016.
Since 1997, 26 states and the District of Columbia have expanded voting rights to people with felony convictions or amended policies to guarantee ballot access. These reforms were achieved through various mechanisms, including legislative reform, executive action, and ballot measures. Over 2 million Americans have regained the right to vote since 1997. Public opinion polls show that a majority - 56% of likely American voters - support voting rights for people completing their sentencea inside and outside of prison. Officials in California, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, and Washington, D.C. have authorized polling stations at local jails while federal officials facilitated absentee voting for eligible voters in Bureau of Prison facilities.