Disenfranchised: How Felony Convictions Affect Voting Rights

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
desmond meade speaks with pbs newshour extra about felon voters rights and disenfranchisement in florida

Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Commission speaks with PBS NewsHour Extra about felon voter rights and disenfranchisement.

Update: A Florida judge recently ruled that restricting voting rights for felons is unconstitutional.

Disenfranchised: Fighting Voter Suppression 

In Florida, people with felony records are fighting to regain their voting rights after being disenfranchised. But the coronavirus has made that struggle more difficult. 

Watch the video below and answer the discussion questions. The video has been edited for length. To watch the video in its entirety or read the transcript, click here.



Disenfranchied Voters and Civil Rights: Discussion Questions

  1. Essential question: How does voter suppression for people with felony convictions affect civil rights?
  2. What does it mean to be disenfranchised?
  3. Why do voting rights advocates believe fines and fees are an undue burden on disenfranchised voters with felony convictions? 
  4. What extra burdens does COVID-19 impose on citizens seeking to restore their voting rights? What are some specific examples of difficulties for returning citizens?
  5. In some states, citizens convicted of felonies permanently lose the right to vote. Others, like Florida, restrict voting based on the type of conviction. What restrictions do you believe are fair? Do you believe anyone else currently restricted from voting should be allowed to vote in national or local elections?
  6. Media literacy: In this video clip we hear from a voting rights advocate who is himself a “returning citizen.” What does this term mean? Should the news media use the term “returning citizen”? Who else might you want to hear from to better understand the issue of Florida’s Amendment 4 and voting rights?

Extension Activities:

1. Take a look at NewsHour EXTRA current events lesson: How COVID disproportionately affects people of color

2. Watch NewsHour’s Voter Suppression and the impact of COVID-19 on people of color (transcript) featuring Rev. William J. Barber who has long tackled the issues of race, poverty and hatred. His Poor People’s Campaign in June will hold a digital assembly and march on Washington to draw attention to civil rights issues. In this video clip, Barber shares some of his concerns about the ways COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color and may impact voting access this fall. 

Ask your students:

How might a crisis like COVID-19 deepen unequal access to the law and civil rights such as the right to vote?

Read the original article.