The Ghosts of the 2023 Elections

As voters head to the polls this fall, our series spotlights their neighbors who have been shut out.
October 30, 2023

Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia are selecting their state officials on Nov. 7. But hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions are barred from voting in these states, which have some of the nation’s harshest disenfranchisement laws—even Kentucky, despite a 2019 reform restoring the rights of many.

For this series, Bolts reporter Alex Burness reported throughout 2023 on the people who’ve been blocked from the franchise in each of these three states—and how they are fighting back. 

“Every time you’re at the polls in Mississippi,” one advocate told him, “there are ghosts standing behind you that should be there, but for the race-based hitching of the criminal legal system to the power of the vote.” 

These are their stories:


Kentucky Activists Step In to Deliver on the Promise of Voting Rights Restoration

After the governor restored hundreds of thousands of people’s rights in 2019, a coalition led by formerly incarcerated Kentuckians is working to inform people of their rights.
Alex Burness,


After “Glimmer of a Moment,” Mississippi Once Again Shuts Out Aspiring Voters

As the state votes next month, many residents with past felony convictions remain barred from voting for life even though a federal court ruled in August that the practice is cruel, unusual, and racially discriminatory.
Alex Burness,


The Virginians Who Can’t Vote Because of Glenn Youngkin

People leaving prison automatically regained the right to vote under the previous governor. But Youngkin ended that policy and now decides who gets to cast a ballot.
Alex Burness,