End Mississippi’s Lifetime Voter Ban
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End Mississippi’s Lifetime Voter Ban

October 25, 2019

Mississippi is one of the only
three states that impose a lifetime voting ban on all
individuals convicted of disqualifying offenses. There are dozens of
convictions in the state of Mississippi
that permanently strip a person of the right to
vote in all elections — local, state and federal. Many of these offenses
are minor, such as stealing wood
from a neighbor’s yard or writing a single bad check
for over a hundred dollars. Between 1994 and 2017. Nearly 50,000 Mississippians were banned for life
from voting. The majority of those banned
have completed their sentences. These are citizens
who pay taxes, serve in the military, raise families and contribute
to their communities, yet are unable to have
a meaningful voice in their communities’ decisions. Once an individual has lost
the right to vote, there are only two ways
he or she can get it back. Either be hand picked
by the governor or have two-thirds of both chambers
of the state legislature pass a Suffrage Bill to restore
that individual’s right to vote. Between 2013 and 2017
only 14 Mississippians had their voting rights
restored by the legislature. Mississippi enacted the lifetime
ban in the new constitution it adopted after
the Civil War to limit the black vote. One delegate to the
Constitutional Convention explained, “that is what
we are here for today, to secure the supremacy
of the white people.” Prior to the adoption
of the 1890 constitution, 67 percent of voting age
eligible black Mississippians were
registered to vote. Two years after
its enactment, black voter registration
plummeted to 6 percent while white voter
registration increased. Although both black
and white Mississippians are impacted by the ban, it continues to have
a disproportionate impact on African Americans.
In recent decades, black voting age Mississippians
have been banned at over twice the rate of those who are white. Other southern states
like Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Florida have changed
their laws to eliminate unforgiving voting bans. Unfortunately for the people
of Mississippi, no such efforts have
been successful. Mississippi’s lifetime voting
ban remains one of the most extreme and unjust
in the nation. It strips American citizens
of membership and political life forever. It punishes families
and communities by silencing their advocates. It robs our great state
of essential voices. It provides no realistic path
to restoration. We must end Mississippi’s
lifetime voting ban. Everyone deserves
a second chance. Paid for by SPLC Action Fund.

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