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Research: high numbers of barred voters in Missouri, nationally

Many people pausing for a moment to reflect on the punitive exactions placed on convicted felons in Missouri and elsewhere across the country might naturally confine their thinking to the most obvious penalty: incarceration in a penal institution.

Notwithstanding that many state and federal criminal charges result in felony convictions and lengthy prison lockups, adverse consequences continue to confront millions of convicted felons for a lifetime following their release from confinement.

Take disenfranchisement, for instance. Although many Americans simply take for granted their right to participate in government through voting, that right is flatly denied to many millions of persons across the country with criminal records.

A recent article chronicling potential reforms in Kentucky discusses in depth the disenfranchisement issue across the United States, noting that every state except for Maine and Vermont denies prisoners the right to vote.

On top of that, most states have laws that disenfranchise felons following prison release.

Missouri is no exception. Research conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts -- an independent nonprofit organization with a stated goal of improving public policy -- that has analyzed data from every state indicates that more than 106,000 felons are denied voting rights in the state. That number is about 2.3 percent of Missouri’s voting-age population.

Although that is certainly significant, it pales in comparison with the voting ban dimensions in Florida, which leads the nation in the dubious category of disenfranchisement. In that state, more than 1. 5 million convicted felons are denied the right to vote.

When disenfranchisement numbers are extrapolated nationwide, say researchers from the advocacy group Sentencing Project, they indicate that close to six million Americans cannot vote owing to their status as convicted felons.

Source: Stateline, "Voting rights for felons on the table," Jake Grovum, Feb. 21, 2014

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