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Massachusetts Disenfranchises its Prisoners

Massachusetts Disenfranchises Its Prisoners

by Peter Wagner

On November 7, 2000, by a 2 to 1 margin, Massachusetts disenfranchised its prisoners with a constitutional amendment called Question 2. Question 2 marked the first time that the Massachusetts constitution had been amended to take away rights from a group of people.

At this point, Maine and Vermont are the only states which allow prisoners to vote. Thirteen states bar felons for life and many other states also restrict the voting rights of those on parole or probation.

Massachusetts is not alone in the reactionary movement to disenfranchise prisoners. In 1998 Utah voters stripped prisoners of the right to vote. Litigation challenging felon disenfranchisement for felons no longer in prison is underway in Pennsylvania, Florida and Washington state. In 2000 the New Hampshire supreme court held that prisoners in that state had no right to vote. So far litigation challenges to felon disenfranchisement have been unsuccessful, as they have not withstood appellate review.

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