Report highlights racially disparate impact of barring Massachusetts prisoners from voting

Northampton, MA (October 31, 2004) - When George Bush ran against Al Gore, every Black adult citizen in Massachusetts was allowed to cast a ballot. This November, more than one out of every hundred Black adults in the state -- and three out of every 100 Black men -- will be denied that right, charged a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative. The report shows that Blacks are disenfranchised in Massachusetts at a rate 6 times higher than for Whites.

(Massachusetts amended its constitution in 2000 to deny prisoners the right to vote. This was the first time the constitution was amended to take away rights from a group.)

The report, Jim Crow in Massachusetts? Prisoner disenfranchisement is the first documentation of the racially disparate impact of prisoner disenfranchisement in Massachusetts. Blacks are only 5.5% of Massachusetts citizens, but are 29% of the state's disenfranchised. Latinos are 6.8% of the state, but are 25% of those barred from the polls.

"The history of the right to vote is generally one of continual expansion of the franchise", said report author Peter Wagner. "It is unfortunate that Massachusetts took a step backwards and, in effect, told the communities that have suffered historic exclusion that they are, in fact, not welcome at the ballot box."

Peter Wagner
(413) 527-0845

Media resources:

Other resources we've put together on felon disenfranchisement:

  • Index of all the empirical internet available research on felon disenfranchisement
  • Index of all the internet available factsheets on felon disenfranchisement
  • Disenfranchisement section of The Prison Index
  • Felon Disenfranchisement: Jim Crow Redux [PDF]. Factsheet comparing the impact of disenfranchisement schemes on the ability og African Americans to be elected to legislative office.

Other links:

Example based on report

For every 1,000 White adults in Massachusetts, just over 2 [2.3] are currently imprisoned for a felony and barred from voting. In a similarly sized group of 1,000 Black adults, 15 [14.9] will be denied a ballot.

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