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10/28/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

How Felon Disenfranchisement Hurts American Democracy

As the 2014 midterm elections near, voter rights — or lack thereof — have become a hotly contested point of debate all across the country. Texas, for example, has made headlines thanks to its strict voter ID laws, which some have called "outrageous" and a "major step backward."

Voter rights, however, is not a new problem for many Americans. Just ask anyone who's been convicted of a felony.

In some states, a felony conviction means you can't vote for the rest of your life. In others, it's possible but a tough process. That was the case for Glenn E. Martin, who resides in New York.

Martin joined a HuffPost Live roundtable Tuesday to chat about felon disenfranchisement -- something that's been labeled as "the last gasp of Jim Crow" -- and share his story.

"In my own experience, I registered to vote the day I got off parole, which you have the right to here in New York state, and immediately received a letter from the Board of Elections telling me I needed a letter from the prison where I was released and from my parole officer and a certificate of release from disability," he told host Alyona Minkovski. "None of those things are needed for the ability to register to vote here in New York state."

Fortunately for Martin, he worked at a law firm, where some of his colleagues helped him inform the board of their own policies.

"If you look at the history of felon disenfranchisement, it's very closely tied to slavery and then Jim Crow [laws] in the United States," said Martin, who does work for JustLeadershipUSA, an organization that aims to cut the American prison population in half by 2030. "So if you think of the states that fought really hard to hold on to slavery, to hold on to Jim Crow laws, and now you look at felon disenfranchisement ... you find that the states -- mostly the southern states -- have the most efforts of people to get their voting rights back."

Catch the rest of the clip above, and watch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.

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PHOTO GALLERY
An Ex Offender Speaks out to Obama About Felony Disenfranchisement
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