RESTORING THE RIGHT TO VOTE

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Inspired by the ballot disputes of the 2000 presidential election, Rutgers University professor Elizabeth A. Hull details how denying the vote to ex-felons has affected the democratic clout of African Americans and Latinos, who account for roughly 63 percent of the nation’s prison population. This well-researched book explores the patchwork of criminal laws and enforcement across the country that keep some ex-felons out of the voting booth, and suggests strategies for advocates—such as evoking the “cruel and unusual” clause of the U.S. Constitution—that are far-reaching and provocative. It provides some colorful and surprising factoids, too: using a fake ID in Maryland is a felony; prisoners in South Africa have the right to vote; and ex-convicts in the U.S. have similar voting habits to the rest of the nation—not the vengeful political views some officeholders might fear. In addition to decoding case law and legal history, Hull notes the isolation and frustration of those who will never participate in civic society. “Disenfranchisement is not, at its core, about philosophy, electoral integrity, criminology, or judicial interpretation,” she writes. “It is about politics and power.” (T. Adams) [03/13]