Tags: Voting Rights | felons | voting rights | history

When Did Ex-Felons Lose Their Rights to Vote? A History

By    |   Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 09:22 AM

Excluding felons from voting rights goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Disenfranchisement for felons was adopted throughout Europe and was often referred to as "civil death," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

For centuries, criminals lost many rights, including the right to own property, the right to enter into contracts and the right to vote. The English colonists carried this idea with them when they came to America. They eventually removed the taking away of some rights, but voter disenfranchisement for felons continued through the 19th and 20th centuries for many states.

VOTE NOW: Should Convicted Felons Be Allowed to Vote?

The founding of America left many voting issues up to the individual states rather than as a national standard. Kentucky became the first state to establish criminal disenfranchisement in its constitution of 1792. State laws excluded voting rights to those "convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

In Vermont, lawmakers gave the state supreme court the authority to disenfranchise people guilty of corruption and other crimes, according to ProCon.org. Others states followed with similar voting restrictions in their constitutions through the 1800s..

Changes occurred during the last half of the 20th century because of an expansion of the criminal justice system, according to The Sentencing Project. There has been an increase in the views of many people to find a proper balance between corrective measures and a re-introduction of ex-felons into society.

TELL US: How Do You Feel About Voting Rights for Convicted Felons?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 mainly dealt with voting rights for minorities, but contained provisions that opened up the debate among voting rights for felons. A provision in the act prohibited jurisdictions from creating tests or proof of good moral character in order to vote.

Supporters of restoring voting rights to felons and ex-felons cited these factors as reasons. However, other observers said that Congress did not intend felon disenfranchisement within coverage of the act.

Recent years have seen changes for voting rights among felons in many states. The laws vary from such states as Maine and Vermont, which allow voting even while felons are incarcerated, to South Carolina, which prohibited voting rights for felons on probation in 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

VOTE NOW: Do You Think Convicted Felons Should Be Allowed to Vote?

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Excluding felons from voting rights goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Disenfranchisement for felons was adopted throughout Europe and was often referred to as "civil death," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
felons, voting rights, history
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2015-22-16
Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 09:22 AM
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