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Virginia Felons Disenfranchised

Virginia is one of 13 states that permanently revoke the voting rights of felons. As a consequence, nearly a quarter of a million Virginians, most of them black men, cannot vote.

A Virginia newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, examined state police records to compile a report citing 241,420 convicted felons banned from voting. As many as 144,900 of them are black men, an estimate based on the state prison system's current makeup of 60 percent black prisoners.

In comparison, approximately 210,000 black men are registered to vote in the state, said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political analyst. Sabato called the number of disenfranchised people "stunning."

Margaret Winter of the ACLU National Prison Project said the effect 'has been to create a permanent subclass of disenfranchised citizens who are mostly black and who are mostly poor."

Jerry W. Kilgore, Virginia's secretary of public safety countered that the state constitutional provision is "race neutral," adding that it "has nothing it to do with whether the felon is black or white, rich or poor."

Historians and legal scholars, however, have said that the original intent of the ban was to disenfranchise blacks and poor whites. But while other voting limits such as poll taxes have long since vanished, the convicted felon ban remains.

Corrections Digest

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