The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and other legislation didn’t do much for the likes of Jarvious Cotton:
Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, he is being denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises — the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
African Americans make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent about a third of those ineligible to vote because of criminal convictions. For some reason – and no, it’s not their inherent criminal nature – their incarceration rate is higher and their punishments are more severe.
Some argue that current attempts to introduce voter ID laws are one more iteration of the centuries old effort to disenfranchise African Americans.