Gary Chambers, a Louisiana Democrat running for the US Senate, sets fire to a Confederate flag in a campaign video as he cites statistics on racial injustice and says ‘it’s time to burn what’s left of the Confederacy “.
“Here in Louisiana and throughout the South, Jim Crow never really left, and the remnants of the Confederacy remain,” Chambers said. “The attacks on black people, our right to vote and participate in this democracy are methodological.”
Chambers debits some statistics including this one: “1 out of 13 black Americans is disenfranchised”.
Chambers did not cite evidence in his video or explain what he meant, but his other campaign materials made it clear he was referring to the number of black Americans who have lost that right due to conviction. for felony. A Chambers press release cited a statistic from 2016, but as of 2020, slightly fewer black Americans were barred from voting. The majority of those who cannot vote due to a felony conviction are no longer in prison.
Chambers, a social justice advocate from Baton Rouge, is running in a Democratic primary hoping to oust U.S. Senator John Kennedy, a Republican.
Banning felons from voting is a relic of racial segregation laws
Prior to the passage of the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed men the right to vote regardless of race, very few states prohibited prisoners from voting, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice at the University of Washington previously told PolitiFact. New York. But after the post-Civil War amendment passed, a wave of states enacted laws or amendments to strip prisoners of the vote.
President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to get states to restore felons to vote. So far, his efforts have stalled amid Republican opposition in the Senate to establish uniform voting rights laws, including for felons once they get out of jail. This means that states have the power to set their own election laws.
Over the past decade, the trend has been towards making it easier for criminals to regain their right to vote after leaving prison. Proponents argue that once criminals have paid their debt to society, they should be allowed to contribute positively to society by voting. Opponents say those who break the law should not easily regain the right to vote.
Each state sets its own rules for determining if and when felons regain the right to vote
A press release from the Chambers campaign showed that it pulled the statistic from a 2020 Brookings Institution report. of voting. It was based on data collected by sociologists from the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia.
In 2016, the Sentencing Project found that one in 13 African Americans of voting age were disenfranchised, a rate more than four times that of non-African Americans. In 2020, the figure fell to 1 in 16 Black Americans. It includes people who have served their sentence, are on probation or parole, or are still in prison.
The number of disenfranchised felons fell between 2016 and 2020 as more states made it easier for certain felons to regain the right to vote, including California, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington, DC.
There are variations between states in the number of felons — of all races and ethnicities — disenfranchised, as each legislature or governor sets its own rules. In absolute numbers, Florida has the highest number of disenfranchised felons. In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that restored the right to vote for people with previous felony convictions, but subsequent legislation required that they first meet other conditions of their sentence, such as as the payment of restitution and court costs.
In Maine, Vermont and now Washington, DC, felons are not losing their right to vote, according to a 2021 analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 21 states, felons only lose their right to vote while incarcerated and regain their right to vote upon release. In the rest of the states, felons also lose their right to vote while on parole and/or probation or must meet other conditions to regain their right to vote.
Chambers said in a campaign video “one in 13 black Americans is disenfranchised.”
Chambers’ video did not explain why they are disenfranchised. But he was referring to the number of African Americans who lost the right to vote due to a felony conviction, based on a 2016 analysis by the Sentencing Project.
A 2020 report by the same group found that number dropped slightly to 1 in 16 African Americans. It includes people who have served their sentence, are on probation or parole, or are still in prison.
Chambers’ general point that significant numbers of black people are disenfranchised due to felony conviction is correct, but in an environment where issues of voter suppression are widely discussed and debated, the figure benefits more of explanations. We rate this statement as half true.