Report: 10% of Wisconsin African Americans can’t vote


According to a new study almost ten percent of African-Americans in Wisconsin are barred from voting because they are in prison or on parole or probation.

Wisconsin’s law bars ex felons from voting until they have completed parole or probation which can often be as long as a decade after they’ve left prison. Wisconsin already ranks number one in the percentage of African-Americans it imprisons. The report released this week by The Sentencing Project shows Wisconsin is the only Midwestern state to rank in the top ten in its percentage of African-American voters disenfranchised by their felony records. The study’s author criminologist Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota says such laws have a long history. “States that had higher proportions of racial minorities in custody were far more likely to pass the most restrictive laws in the past 160 years ,” he says. “And so race is really intricately bound up with disenfranchisement specifically.”

According to the report in 2010 around 22 thousand African Americans were either in prison or on Parole or probation. Efforts to ease felon voting restrictions proposed in the last two legislative sessions failed to pass. But Stacy Harbaugh of the Wisconsin chapter of the ACLU says reform advocates will try again after the November elections. “It’s always our hope that our legislators will understand that when people are out of prison that their right to vote should be a core civil right a constitutionally protected right,” she says. “They’ll definitely have to have a lot of courage to stand up and make our law more like our neighbors.”

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Both Illinois and Michigan restore voting rights to felons once they leave prison. Minnesota and Iowa have laws similar to Wisconsin’s.