Repeal ‘new Jim Crow’

After prison, people of color face many obstacles, including laws that deny them the right to vote

It’s been called “the new Jim Crow.” People of color are more likely to be stopped by police, more likely to be detained and searched, and more likely to be charged and convicted than whites in similar circumstances. After prison, they face many barriers that prevent a return to full citizenship, including disenfranchisement laws that deny them the right to vote—a problem that affects nearly one in 13 black adults.

That’s why we support U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s call for states to repeal laws that prohibit the formerly incarcerated from voting. Such laws, which affect 5.85 million Americans, serve no purpose other than to lower voting rates among communities of color and make it harder for ex-convicts to reintegrate into society.

Only 11 states bar felons from voting for life, but most impose some period of disenfranchisement. In California, ex-convicts may not vote while on parole or under any form of mandatory criminal-justice-system supervision. In 2012, these policies denied the vote to more than 400,000 otherwise eligible Californians, most of them African-Americans and Latinos, who make up 76 percent of the state’s prison population.

Disenfranchisement laws only serve to compound disparities in the criminal justice system and suppress voting in minority communities. California should heed the Obama administration’s call and wipe them off the books.