Mississippi leads the country in denying felon voting rights

WATCH: Mississippi leads the country in denying felon voting rights

Mississippi — New numbers show Mississippi has among the highest numbers of felons denied their voting rights in the US.

As many as 35 thousand Mississippians have lost their right to vote.

That includes 16 percent of African Americans according to the Sentencing Project.

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One Desoto County activist says he’s been fighting to change that. Desoto County NAACP President Robert Tipton tells me that he has been on the phone with state leaders for years now trying to get answers about disparities for African Americans in the state.

Tipton tells us while some would argue for restoring the rights of felons so they can vote, he says the very number of African Americans incarcerated for felonies in the state is unjust.

“All you have to do is to treat the African Americans the same way as they do the white population and you will decrease the prison population by forty percent.” Tipton said.

Tipton tells us he doesn’t believe the numbers provided to him by the state. He believes the number of African Americans incarcerated for felonies is higher than what he has seen.

“That’s just another way for voter suppression and they have been trying to deny our right to vote because they know voting is power” Tipton said.

Tipton tells us not having the right to vote also denies many African Americans in Mississippi the opportunity to run for office.

“That is why we have to get involved. By us having been denied the right to vote for so long, that has killed the will power of a lot of people.” Tipton said

Under state law felons who have lost their voting rights in Mississippi can get them back through a pardon or legislative action. Both are rare.

Last year a Federal Appeals court heard arguments in a case of a group of felons including a Marshall County man, suing the state of Mississippi over their voting rights. The court has not ruled in the case.