For the more than 100 million American citizens who cast votes in U.S. presidential elections, voting is a matter of being old enough, completing voter registration, and casting a ballot. However, while across the United States voters represent myriad backgrounds, opinions, and walks of life, in some states, the right to vote is not guaranteed to persons charged with a crime.
Because of a wide catalog of state disenfranchisement laws, approximately 5.2 million individuals with past or ongoing criminal convictions will not be voting in the upcoming presidential election.
Some states deny the vote to persons incarcerated or in jail, those on parole or probation, or those who were convicted of certain crimes. Even in states where such individuals are allowed to participate, many do not because of registration deadlines, voter ID laws, and limited access to the forms and information required to become a registered voter.
The rules for disenfranchisement vary widely across the country. There are two states in which no citizen can be disenfranchised based on their legal status, yet there are others in which disenfranchisement is so common that over 5% of voting age Americans cannot vote.
To determine the states where felons can and cannot vote, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from The Sentencing Project on the legal statuses that can cause residents to lose their right to vote in each state. We also reviewed data from The Prison Policy Initiative on the barriers placed on voter eligibility by prior criminal convictions and current detention status.
There appears to be unprecedented enthusiasm to get out the vote in 2020. As of Oct. 18, at least 27.9 million Americans have already cast their ballot, according to the U.S. Elections Project — more than four times the number of early ballots cast at this point in the 2016 election cycle. Many people are using mail-in ballots to cast their vote safely from home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infect tens of thousands of Americans each day. These are the states where the spread of the virus is slowing, and where it is getting worse.
Though it is taking much of the attention, the presidential race will not be the only issue on the ballots in 2020. Local, state, and national legislators are all up for election as well. Americans have had a consistently negative view of Congress for over a decade, and 80% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, according to a Gallup poll. This overarching dissatisfaction could cost several senators their job — only 19 members of the U.S. senate have an approval rating of 50% or higher. These are America’s most and least popular senators.