Last updated on: 4/16/2008 | Author:

Human Rights Watch Biography

Pro to the question "Should People Who Have Completed Felony Sentences Be Allowed to Vote?"

“Felony voting restrictions in the U.S. are political anachronisms reflecting values incompatible with modern democratic principles. At the edge of the millennium these laws have no purpose. To the contrary, they arbitrarily deny convicted offenders the ability to vote regardless of the nature of their crimes or the severity of their sentences, they create political ‘outcasts’ from taxpaying, law-abiding citizens who are ex-offenders, they distort the country’s electoral process and they diminish the black vote, countering decades of voting rights gains.

The impact of felony disenfranchisement laws has been exacerbated in the past quarter century as more offenders are convicted of felonies, more convicted felons are sent to prison, and prison sentences have grown longer. These trends reflect the adoption of public policies that emphasize incarceration and punishment as the principal means of crime control. While debate continues about the wisdom and efficacy of such policies, it is clear that they have had many unintended consequences — one of which is the significant increase in the disenfranchised population.

Given the major impact of felony disenfranchisement laws on the voting population, and in particular their strikingly disproportionate impact on African Americans, policymakers should consider alternative policies that will better protect voting rights without injury to legitimate state criminal justice interests. We believe the best course of action would be to remove conviction-based restrictions on voting rights. At the federal level, Congress should enact legislation to restore voting rights in federal elections to citizens convicted of a felony, so that the ability to vote in federal elections is not subject to varying state laws. State legislatures should also eliminate state laws that curtail the franchise for persons with felony convictions within their states.”

Losing The Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States, 1998


“Human Rights Watch is the largest human rights organization based in the United States. Human Rights Watch researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all regions of the world. Human Rights Watch then publishes those findings in dozens of books and reports every year, generating extensive coverage in local and international media. This publicity helps to embarrass abusive governments in the eyes of their citizens and the world. Human Rights Watch then meets with government officials to urge changes in policy and practice — at the United Nations, the European Union, in Washington and in capitals around the world. In extreme circumstances, Human Rights Watch presses for the withdrawal of military and economic support from governments that egregiously violate the rights of their people. In moments of crisis, Human Rights Watch provides up-to-the-minute information about conflicts while they are underway. Refugee accounts, which were collected, synthesized and cross-corroborated by our researchers, helped shape the response of the international community to recent wars in Kosovo and Chechnya.”

Human Rights Watch website, (accessed Aug. 22, 2006)


“Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.

We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice.

We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable.

We challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law.

We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.”

Human Rights Watch website, (accessed Aug. 22, 2006)

None found