Convicted Felons Should Have the Right the Vote

Polis: Center for Politics
4 min readJun 24, 2024

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Isaiah Fisher-Smith (PPS ‘24)

Isaiah Fisher-Smith (PPS ‘24)
Isaiah Fisher-Smith (PPS ‘24)

In 2019, there were 679,221 total arrests made in the state of Florida. Among the African American population was the highest arrest rate at 7,203.7 while white folks were at a whooping 2,569.8 per 100,000 people. There is a major difference between the African American arrest rates compared to the other races. It is imperative to discuss why are there is such mass arrest rates right before the Trump and Biden election in 2020 in the state of Florida. What could cause this trigger during this time of needing when voting is important to citizens. Is there an intentional effort by state government to create a legal reason to restrict black people’s votes?

Having this significant number of Black people disenfranchised to vote is detrimental to the state of Florida for the election of 2020 presidential campaign. This would’ve been pivotal to the election as Donald Trump won as a result in the state of Florida. Imagine if these people were able to vote and change the outcome of these results. Within the skewed data, there is still a percentage that were not able to vote due to monetary requirements to be refranchised to vote.

There are three types of categories for felonies in the state of Florida. The felonies of the first degree are the following: aggravated battery on an official officer, carjacking, and burglary with an assault. The felonies of the second degree are extortion, vehicular homicide, and felon in possessions in firearms. The felonies of the third degree are aggravated stalking, theft of firearms or vehicle. The highest arrest crime types among African Americans in Florida are robbery and tied third highest with 42%. The state legislation in Florida statics shadows correlation of the crimes and the race of who commits the crimes. This is proven by the percentage of disenfranchised in the African American population at 5.3% while another other race is 1.7%.

This is not coincidental that the most common crime among black men is the first-class felon in Florida. Is true that Florida intentionally created state laws that would disenfranchise voting rights in the leading race of the crimes? It is portrayed that Black felons are becoming a target population to restrict their voting rights. The goal of Florida’s state legislation is to restrict as many African American voters as possible is assumed by their laws. When convicted of a first- class crime, they become a felon. They automatically lose the right to vote and become disenfranchised of voting. To become reinstated to vote, they must complete the monetary sanctions. There are at least 1.1 million people in the state of Florida currently banned from voting. This is caused by felons not able to pay the require court fees to vote. There needs to be a policy for a referendum to accommodate for the financial situations for the felons to vote. The change for policy is urgent. Why would the state government not want to help the populations of citizens that are eager to vote. The state legislation could help felons, but it is not important to their agenda setting. In 2018, voters passed an amendment to restore voting rights to most people after sentence completion. A year later, 2019, the legislation passed on the condition on the payment of the monetary sanctions. By October 2020, only those who made complete legal payment had their voting rights restored. If the government established a policy reform to lower to cost of financial requirements for the felon, it will lead to more eligibility to vote. The money requirements for voting must be adjusted to the financial situation of the felons. This creates the opportunity for the state still to have the ability to maintain money from felons in a capitalistic manner. This would also increase the numbers of voters that are felons. That can be bookmarked in history when contributing to local and state government as well as presidential campaigns.

The government would be challenged for a chance to create a different perspective on felons. The state of Florida could use the voting of felons to significant increase the voting polls. The contribution would most likely challenge some seats in Congress by Florida. Seats in the House of Representative and Senate would have voters that are felons. What are politicians willing to do in this situation of accommodating to 2nd chance felons or stick to traditional history.

Isaiah Fisher-Smith (PPS ’24) is from Greensboro North Carolina and a Public Policy Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ’23 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.

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