Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made, More Needed

by TChris

One of many reasons a felony conviction shouldn't disqualify a citizen from voting:

"Felony disenfranchisement laws are the last vestiges of Jim Crow," said Catherine Weiss, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, who is working on the issue. "They disenfranchise African Americans way out of proportion to their numbers in the population."

As of 2000, almost 5 million Americans couldn't vote because of laws that restrict those convicted of a felony from casting ballots -- in some cases even after their sentences and parole are complete, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group that favors alternatives to prison. Four in 10 of those disenfranchised were black.

Racial disenfranchisement comes at a high cost to a democratic society.

"This marginalizes people," said Ronald Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Association. "If they can't participate politically, they tend to care less and less about other things that go along with voting."

Fortunately, voters' rights advocates are making progress.

[A]dvocates are now celebrating developments such as Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's recent announcement that he plans to reverse his state's lifetime ban on felon voting.

In 2001, New Mexico lifted a lifetime ban, and Nebraska followed suit in March. In several states, felons can now apply to have their voting rights restored. Such waivers had become commonplace in Iowa, where Vilsack said he would sign an executive order allowing those who complete their sentences and parole to vote.

Even Florida has been shamed into modest reform. Greater change is desparately needed.

With more than 820,000 felons who could not vote as of 2000, according to the Sentencing Project, Florida has the largest disenfranchised population of any state.

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    Re: Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made (none / 0) (#1)
    by veloer on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    It would be nice if Corporations convinced of any malfeasance would be barred from giving any money to a politician or political party or political group. (Dream on)

    Citizens should never be disenfranchized. I'm not afraid of the votes of criminals -- it's the votes of Republicans that shock me. Either give all citizens the franchize, or put all Republicans in prison. :-) I don't even particularly see why children of 11 or 12 cannot vote. They are certainly as mature as Genghiz Bush, and they aren't as bizarre as the rightwingers that hate their next door neighbors in order to express their affiliation with Jesus. All adults should be able to vote. And starting voting earlier would improve the participation later, because there would be parents on hand to instill the family duties along with the prejudices.

    Re: Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made (none / 0) (#3)
    by SeeEmDee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:04 PM EST
    Once again, they're dancing around the real reason why all the felony disenfranchisements: The War on Drugs. That is the #1 reason behind the vast majority of arrests and incarcerations. But still, many minority leaders will not speak up, for fear of being slapped with the 'soft on drugs' canard...when it's those same minorities that are being targeted specifically by those laws they decry. How long do they think they can continue to lean way over and talk around the elephant in the living room before they acknowledge it's existence?

    For all our bluster about the high ideals of the founding of our country, lets remember it was mainly a tax revolt. "No taxation without representation." If, as the Republicans are always demanding, we remained true to our "founding principles" we could not require people to pay taxes who are prohibited from voting. I think we hit them in the pocketbook. Let's exempt everyone who isn't allowed to vote from paying any type of taxes. I think that is keeping with THE most fundamental principle on which our country was founded..."No taxation without representation."

    Re: Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made (none / 0) (#5)
    by LorettaNall on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:04 PM EST
    Myself and many other drug policy and prison reform groups are marching on Washington DC August 13, 2005 from 9 am til 2 pm at Lafayette Park to protest what has become the American Gulag. You can find out more at the US Marijuana Party Blog or at Journey for Justice Hope to see you there. Bring your friends and family.

    "No taxation without representation." Well, in that sense, we ALL need a change of Constitution, because we have NO stated right to vote for President. JJ Jr.'s 26th Amendment would specify that right, and also define additional specific legal rights to protect voters from intimidation, vote-fraud, and the crooked actions of partisan SecStates. As for the elephant in the room, sure, we live in an era of powerful political intimidations through crooked media and the poorly-educated public. Blaming those facts on 'the minority party' is fairly hilarious, since we ARE the minority party through massive electronic and conventional vote-fraud, lies in the crooked media, and the crooked actions of partisan SecStates. Those only 'guilty' of the crime of using their ninth amendment rights should be released immediately. And the 15th would seem to apply to these incarcerations and loss of franchise.

    Re: Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made (none / 0) (#7)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:04 PM EST
    "No taxation without representation" is a nice ideal, but unworkable as an absolute. Children and all manner of aliens all pay taxes. It doesn't make sense to let them vote or to make them totally tax-exempt.

    Oops, sorry, make that XXVIII, not XXVI (already in use giving 18-year olds the franchise). Children don't pay federal taxes, their parents do. As for aliens, they aren't citizens, so the theory doesn't apply. Since we have had five years of vote fraud installing an illegal government, the nonpayment of federal taxes is arguably a reasonable act of protest.

    Re: Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made (none / 0) (#9)
    by SeeEmDee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:06 PM EST
    Paul, kindly re-read what I wrote. I was not referring to the Dems; I was referring to the leaders of African-American groups who complain of how many of their people are incarcerated, but never (publicly) seem to make the connection between the origins of the drug laws and the out-of-all-proportion ratio of their people being behind bars. That's the 'elephant' I was talking about. An 'elephant' that the Dems, with their 'me-too' attempts to look 'tougher on crime' than Republicans by ratcheting up the drug law penalties, have had a hand in creating. Fail to look at that because of party-inspired tunnel vision, and you'll be proven to have no better visual acuity than a Repig.

    the problem... (none / 0) (#10)
    by p lukasiak on Wed Jun 18, 2008 at 10:18:54 AM EST
    of course, is that the Founders pretty much endorsed the idea of felon disenfranchisement by enshrining it in the constitution.

    the issue isn't felon disenfranchisement -- its a "justice" system that is de facto discriminatory.