Whether you consider voting a privilege or a right, that constitutional flexibility is not afforded to those currently in prison, nor are they automatically restored once released.
According to Vox, 6.1 million people were not allowed to vote in the 2016 election due to their incarceration history. This felony disenfranchisement hits hardest in the black community. As of 2017, the African-American population makes up 12% of the U.S. population, yet they count for 33% of the prison population. Meanwhile white Americans count for 64% of the U.S. population, but only make up 30% of prisoners. That makes the black prison population three times higher than the black American population.
This is largely due to the Prison Industrial Complex. This term describes the transformation of prisons meant to rehabilitate citizens back into society, into private corporations that depend on keeping individuals jailed for profit.
Bernie Sanders has been vocal about his opposition towards systematic racism and his plans to fight it. One being the right for prisoners to vote. Vermont and Maine are the only U.S. states that allow prisoners to vote, and now Robert C. White Jr. is hoping to make D.C. the next.
D.C. Councilmember White introduced the ‘Restore the Vote Amendment Act of 2019,’ to give incarcerated individuals their voting rights back. White hopes to steer the narrative of voting rights and felony disenfranchisement into a more intellectual conversation. Aware of the extremity of some criminals, he hopes that citizens will understand that those who were incorrectly incarcerated or recently released are not devalued in society. White understands that these individuals deserve the chance for their voices to be heard, especially after they have rightfully served their time. He also hopes this allows black Americans the chance to be a larger part of the political conversation, since they are the most unfairly present in jail.