Dating back to the Jim Crow era, a patchwork of state felony disfranchisement laws, which vary in severity from state to state, prevent approximately 5.85 million Americans with felony and, in several states, misdemeanor convictions from voting. Confusion about and misapplication of these laws also de facto disenfranchise countless other Americans.

Many disenfranchised citizens live in Florida, Iowa, or Kentucky, the three states with extreme policies of disenfranchising anyone with a felony conviction for life. These states are among those that also disproportionately suppress the voting rights of black people. In Florida and Kentucky, approximately one in five black citizens is disenfranchised due to a prior conviction. In Iowa, the longstanding system of disenfranchisement, paired with the worst disproportionate incarceration rate of black people in the nation, resulted in the disenfranchisement of an estimated one in four voting-age black men by 2005.

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