The Washington Post's Omission on Voter Suppression

The Washington Post this weekend had a sharply-worded editorial condemning efforts to disenfranchise voters with which I of course agree, but the editorial missed the crucial point. Here's the key paragraph:

Yet even if all 1,500 Confederate symbols across the country were removed overnight by some sudden supernatural force, the pernicious crusade to roll back voting rights would continue apace, with voters of color suffering its effects disproportionately. Pushing back hard against those who would purge voter rolls, demand forms of voter ID that many Americans don’t possess, and limit times and venues for voting — this should be a paramount cause for the Trump era.
All the forms of voter suppression listed deserve to be combatted, but the chief cause of disenfranchisement in the United States is one that is still rarely challenged: disenfranchisement of those with felony convictions. It's difficult to get a good estimate of the number of people prevented from voting by the most-talked-about forms of voter suppression, but estimates put the number in the hundreds of thousands or low millions. Felony disenfranchisement alone revokes the right to vote for 6.1 million people according to the Sentencing Project, including nearly 10% of African Americans. Of course, many if not most of those barred from voting would not vote anyway, but if even a third did, that would likely outweigh the number of people disenfranchised by all voter ID laws, voter roll purges, and other restrictions.

Felony disenfranchisement, in turn, has huge knock-on effects by enabling the continued incarceration of a massive portion of the American populace and a particularly large portion of the African American populace. Any effort to fight for voting rights in the 21st century that wants to do more than tinker around the edges needs to fight felony disenfranchisement.


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