How Millions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House

The criminal disenfranchisement that affects millions of American citizens

“It seems when you’re convicted of a felony, the scarlet letter is there. You take it everywhere with you.” —Jamaica S., a twenty-five-year-old on probation in Tennessee who lost her right to vote

More than 4 million Americans, mainly poor, black, and Latino, have lost the right to vote. In some states, as many as a third of all African American men cannot take part in the most basic right of a democracy. The reason? Felony disenfranchisement laws, which remove the vote from people while they are in prison or on parole, and, in several states, for the rest of their lives.

Award-winning journalist Sasha Abramsky takes us on a journey through disenfranchised America, detailing the revival of antidemocratic laws that came of age in the post–Civil War segregationist South, and profiling Americans who are fighting to regain the right to vote. From the Pacific Northwest to Miami, with stops in a dozen states in between, Abramsky shows for the first time how this growing problem has played a decisive role in elections nationwide—from state races all the way up to the closely contested 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

With a new national Right to Vote campaign having just helped to overturn Iowa’s felony disenfranchisement laws and similar campaigns under way in eight other states, this book comes at a time when many Americans have begun to recognize these laws as a fundamental threat to democracy.

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