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Boston University Law Review

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Black women who are eligible to vote do so at consistently high rates during elections in the United States. For thousands of Black women, however, racism, sexism, and criminal convictions intersect to require them to navigate a maze of laws and policies that keep them from voting. With the alarming rate of convictions and incarceration of Black women, criminal law intersects with civil rights to bar their involvement in the electoral process. This voting ban is known as felony disenfranchisement, but it amounts to voter suppression.

By reconceptualizing voter suppression based on criminal convictions through the experiences of Black women’s access to their voting rights, this Article adds a new perspective to the rich scholarship analyzing voting rights. This Article examines the history of Black women’s exclusion from the ballot box in the United States, including how the racist legacy of Jim Crow and Jane Crow continue through mass incarceration and voter suppression schemes. Using Florida’s disenfranchisement maze as a case study, this Article shows that while Black women and other advocates have led attempts to abolish voter suppression schemes, permanently, they have yet to succeed through the judicial, executive, or legislative branches.

The ostensible reasons for these voter suppression schemes vary, but the outcome has been the devaluation of the interests of Black women and their communities while preserving the voting priorities of white communities. This Article concludes by demanding that individuals, including voters and members of all branches of the government, recognize Black women’s voting rights and work to dismantle these voter suppression schemes. Until then, society will continue to bar Black women from the ballot box disproportionately and disregard the justice and democratic values the United States claims to hold dear.



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