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Restrictive rules keep millions of Americans from voting

Published

By Agence France-Presse

Millions of Americans will be barred from casting ballots in Tuesday’s crucial midterm elections due to electoral rules at the state level, which effectively exclude many minority voters to the detriment of Democrats.

Florida voters will consider whether to restore voting rights to those with prior felony convinctions (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Florida voters will consider whether to restore voting rights to those with prior felony convinctions (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Here’s a look at states where these restrictions could impact the poll’s outcome.

1.5 million Floridians disenfranchised

Nearly six million Americans are excluded from voting because they are imprisoned, on parole or awaiting sentencing.

African Americans, who are overrepresented in the US penal system, are four times more likely to be unable to vote than the rest of the population, according to The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization.

Rules vary widely state by state, with some like Maine and New Hampshire allowing inmates to vote.

But in places such as Kentucky, Iowa, Virginia and Florida, any conviction — even for a minor offense like possession of marijuana — results in lifelong disenfranchisement.

In Florida, where the Republican Donald Trump was just 112,000 votes ahead of his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, nearly 1.5 million people are deprived of voting because of a criminal record.

In addition to choosing their governor and members of Congress, Florida residents will vote on whether to restore voting rights to people with prior felony convictions once they have finished their sentences, besides those convicted of the most serious crimes.

Proof of street address

There is no national identity card in the United States. Instead, each state defines what documents can be used as identification at the polling station.

And according to the American Civil Liberties Union, an influential civil rights organization, several states have imposed restrictive rules since 2010.

North Dakota has since 2016 required its residents to present a document with proof of a street address.

But the state is home to thousands of Native Americans who live on reservations in rural areas with but a single post office box.

They might be turned away at the ballot box, where Heidi Heitkamp — a Democrat who was elected to the Senate in 2012 by just 3,000 votes — is campaigning to keep her seat.

Backers of the rule hold it prevents fraud, as North Dakota does not require voters to pre-register.

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