By Liam Julian. Felony disenfranchisement laws have a long history in the United States. They first appeared in the colonies in the 1600s as “civil deaths”—vague punishments born from common law, often involving the loss of voting rights and usually meted out for “morality crimes” like drunkenness. These coarse sanctions evolved, though, and between 1776 and 1821, 11 U.S. states codified specific laws limiting voting rights for people convicted of certain crimes. By 1868, when the 14th Amendment, which addresses voting rights, was ratified, 29 of 37 American states specifically withheld the vote from people convicted of felonies.