Human Rights Campaign Report Highlights the Unique Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws on Women of Color

by HRC Staff

Post submitted by Viet Tran (he/him/they/them), former HRC Press Secretary

Today, the Human Rights Campaig released Banned from the Ballot Box: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws on LBTQ Women of Color, a new report detailing the United States’ history of felony disenfranchisement and how laws have uniquely impacted lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women of color, who are the fastest growing group in the juvenile justice system. Too often felony disenfranchisement laws suppress the voices of communities of color including women and LGBTQ people and lead to over-policing and mass incarceration.

“For far too long, laws and policies have been enacted to restrict the rights of people of color to vote and include women, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Currently, people of color, including lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women, who have been convicted of felonies are forced to live under a patchwork of state laws, leaving them uncertain about their eligibility to vote and unfairly removed from the electoral process. We need systemic change at every level to break the cycle of racial and social injustice that affect all people of color. And that change most effectively comes through a pro-equality administration that advances comprehensive federal legislation that restores the right to vote after the completion of one's sentence.”

Girls are the fastest growing group in the juvenile justice system, and nearly 60% of them identify as LBTQ and gender nonconforming. A failure to conform to strict expectations of feminine behavior and sexist judicial paternalism contribute to their overrepresentation behind bars. LBTQ women of color are also at increased risk of arrest, incarceration and ultimately, disenfranchisement. Increased contact with law enforcement, judges, and jurors presents unique opportunities for racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia to occur. Disenfranchisement and alienation from civic life are often additional penalties that trail these women—in some cases for a lifetime.

Within the LGBTQ community, people of color, LGBTQ youth, and transgender individuals are often the most impacted by weakened voting rights laws. A poll found that African-American and Latino voters were three times as likely as white voters to report trouble finding their polling place. With one-third of transgender people reporting having no government identification that reflects their gender identity, voter ID laws often forcibly “out” transgender voters to poll workers, putting them at risk for discrimination and harassment.

Read the report here.

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