Felons And The Ballot Box

Fewer African-American men, on average, are voting to begin with, now a new study that finds nearly one and a half million of them couldn't cast a ballot even if they wanted. CBS Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

An increasing number of black American men cannot vote because they were once convicted of a crime. Thirteen percent of all black males in the United States have lost their right to the ballot box because they're either in prison, on probation or on parole.

The Sentencing Project, a group which monitors the criminal justice system, and Human Rights Watch, an international organization that promotes human rights, counted up 3.9 million Americans of all races barred from voting because of a criminal past

The study found 14 states permanently bar offenders from
voting even after they've finished serving their sentences

and no two states seem to enforce the ban the same way.

"We have a somewhat strange situation where, if you're an ex-felon in West Virginia you can vote for president, but if you're an ex-felon in Virginia, you can't vote for president," says Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Some state laws barring felons from the ballot box have been in place over 100 years, the study found. It is only since prison populations exploded in recent years, because of tougher sentencing laws, that anyone thought to ask what the impact would be on voting rights.

The impact appears likely to only get bigger, especially among African-American men. According to the study, if current crime trends continue, in some states, as many as a third of the next generation of black males may permanently lose their right to vote.

Reported by Jim Stewart