As our nation is heavily focused on protesting, debating, watching, and reading the news about President Trump and his suspenseful executive orders and tweets, I sit back and wonder what the silent majority of this country thinks about the events taking place. And no, I am not talking about the silent majority of the “white working middle class” Americans. I am talking about the millions who are incarcerated or released felons who lost their fundamental right to vote. According to Amnesty International;
“The United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but is responsible for nearly 22% of the world’s prison population. More than 2 million people are incarcerated in U.S. prisons as well as local and county jails. 1 in 3 black men in the United States will go to prison or jail if current trends continue. An average of 5 million people are under state or federal supervision in the form of probation or parole.”
With the vast number of American’s who are incarcerated and permanently labeled felons, it also begs the question, what would have happened in this last election if felons could vote? According to political scientist Vesla Weaver at Yale University, those who are imprisoned are disproportionately African-American, a critical Democratic vote. About 40% of all inmates are African-American, and an estimated 36% of all of those disenfranchised by a felony charges are black. Even though researchers cannot pin-point exactly how large the share of all disenfranchised felons consist of Latinos, who also generally vote for Democrats, it would probably be in the area of 20%, which is the share of Latinos in the current inmate population.
According to Christopher Uggen, author of the Sentencing Project report, professor at University of Minnesota, and the country’s leading expert on felony disenfranchisement, there’s a number of elections where Democrats have suffered as a result of felony disenfranchisement. Arguably and the most notable is the 2000 presidential election that George W. Bush won. He beat the Democrat candidate, Al Gore, by obtaining Florida’s 25 electoral college votes by 537 votes in the popular election. Meanwhile, In 2000, Florida had over 827,000 inmates and former felons who weren’t allowed to vote. Uggen claims that approximately 68.9% would have voted for the Democrat. He also estimated the turnout at 27.2% which would have given the Democrats an extra 155,025 votes and Gore would have won over Bush by almost 85,000 votes.
So if prisoners and felons voted in America would Hillary have won the Presidential Election? Would Trump have campaigned to bring back the tactic of stop and frisk? Would Trump have called Mexicans rapists and criminals? How would Trump appeal to the felons who are mostly people of color? If and when we see the day that the real “silent majority” have a voice in our presidential election, would they help our country progress in social justice issues? Along with the current issues our citizens are protesting for, if they raised awareness about the cruel injustices of mass incarceration and felon disenfranchisement that has been a problem for decades now, maybe we could prevent electing another “Trump”.