The fight to overturn restrictions that prevent over 6 million people who had been convicted of a felony from voting is of central importance to the working class. A quarter of those are in Florida, where volunteers gathered almost 800,000 signatures to put removing the state’s ban on former prisoners’ right to vote on the ballot this year.
Restrictions on voting rights of felons hit workers, who are the big majority of the prison population, the hardest. And they fall disproportionately on workers who are Black.
Workers behind bars are no different from fellow workers outside prison walls. We are all part of the working class and confront the same political and moral crisis of capitalism. Prisoners are an integral part of our class’s battle to overturn capitalist rule and take political power into our own hands.
The U.S. rulers imprison more working people than any other country in the world. They face restrictions on what they can read, and conditions geared to assault their dignity. Thousands are thrown in solitary confinement. And then the rulers bar their right to vote when they get out.
Establishing the right of workers to vote has a long history that includes fighting to end property qualifications after the revolutionary ouster of the British colonists; extending the franchise to Blacks after the second American Revolution overthrew slavery; and winning women’s suffrage in 1920 after more than 70 years of protests.
It took a massive proletarian Black-led civil rights movement to destroy Jim Crow segregation and win passage of the Voting Rights Act. This struggle led to winning the vote for 18 year olds.
Many among the propertied rulers saw in the workers who voted for Donald Trump the harbinger of class battles to come. These workers, disgusted by the effects of today’s capitalist crisis, are looking for something new. One of the rulers’ responses has been to look for new ways to diminish workers’ votes.
Fights like the one in Florida today to push back restrictions on the franchise are an important part of advancing the unity and fighting capacity of the working class.