In a victory for voters’ rights, felon-disenfranchisement laws are being overturned in Deleware, and NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous writes on the Huffington Post that it’s high time for the rest of the country to follow suit.
The amendment, passed at the urging of the Delaware NAACP, allows people with nonviolent felony convictions to vote after their release from prison. This is a major victory for voting rights and a strike against the practice of “felony disenfranchisement.” But it is also a major step forward for a nation still struggling to heal old racial wounds.
Felony disenfranchisement has direct roots in the Jim Crow Era. In the late 19th century, states above and below the Mason-Dixon Line began to find new and creative ways to keep black voters away from the polls. Banning people with felony convictions was one of the solutions.
For example, in 1901 the Commonwealth of Virginia had 147,000 black voters on the rolls. But many lawmakers saw this growing political block as a threat. At that year’s Constitutional Convention, they hatched a plan to disenfranchise African Americans through a combination of black codes and felony disenfranchisement. One legislator said on the record that the plan would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor.”
Read Benjamin Todd Jealous’ entire piece at the Huffington Post.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.