published Monday, August 6th, 2012

Restore felons' voting rights

One of the most galling undercurrents of contemporary U.S. politics is the partisan effort by Republican legislators in many states to suppress voter turnout by implementing extremely questionable voter ID requirements. Indeed, many states now have ID requirements that make it difficult for certain groups — usually the poor, the elderly and minority groups — to vote. It is hardly an accident that those targeted by such requirements tend to vote for Democrats.

Those who promote and pass such restrictive laws, of course, couch their actions in lofty terms. ID requirements, they say, are necessary to preserve the purity of the election process and to prevent fraud. That's political jargon of the worst kind. There's no need for such legislation. Documentable voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and typically low in volume when it does occur.

The only reason for voter ID requirements is to disenfranchise certain voters. The process is not the only way that partisan legislators play politics with the right to vote. Many states also restrict the vote by disenfranchising felons. That's another endeavor that looks good on paper, but one that on closer inspection is infused with a racism that flies in the face of the nation's basic principles.

Many individuals on both sides of the political divide find it reasonable to withhold voting rights from convicted felons currently in jail or prison. What's not reasonable, though, is extending the ban on voting from incarcerated felons to those who have served their time. If those men and women, including parolees and probationers, have been rehabilitated as their release from prison indicates, why should their right to vote remain suspended?

The answer is, again, political. Refusing to restore voting rights to felons who have served their time and who are living within the law in their communities is another way to suppress the minority vote. Indeed, given the fact that blacks make up about 38 percent of the prison population but slightly less than 13 percent of the general population, it's obvious that most of the felons who remain disenfranchised after their release are members of a minority group that tends to vote for Democrats.

GOP-controlled legislatures that refuse to consider restoring voting rights to felons who have done their time -- and who meet the requirements of their parole or probation — are acting in such a manner to reduce the number of likely Democratic voters. The numbers can be considerable. Currently, Tennessee and Georgia bar felons who are in jail or prison or on parole or probation from voting. That effectively keeps tens of thousands of rehabilitated men and women from exercising a basic right of democracy.

There is a remedy to such outrageous legislative fiats. Tennessee, Georgia and other states with similar laws should automatically restore the right to vote to now law-abiding felons who have completed their sentences. It is the just, equitable and quintessentially American thing to do. Besides, it fosters civic engagement of the best kind. That's especially important to reinforce rehabilitation.

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Oh noes, give them nasty felons back their votes!

Horrors, I shall have the vapors!

August 6, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.
harrishaven said...

"Documentable voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and typically low in volume when it does occur." - Perhaps it's the undocumentable voter fraud that requires such measures.

"If those men and women, including parolees and probationers, have been rehabilitated as their release from prison indicates, why should their right to vote remain suspended?" - Why should their right to bear arms remain suspended?

August 6, 2012 at 11:16 a.m.
joneses said...

The dummycrats must really be hurting for votes. Since they have paid their debt to society we could restore all their rights even the one to own a firearm.

August 6, 2012 at 11:28 a.m.

Harris Haven, so you can't prove it is happening because you haven't investigated it enough, so you skip the proof and go right to the solution that will impact innocent people?

Why not implement an effective ID system first? Why do things backward?

And if the NRA believes in anything, it's that gun control laws don't work, so why support this one if all it does is make more criminals?

Of course that there is a substantive difference between the rights is no matter. You having a legal gun impacts my legal acts not one bit regardless of what either of us does. Voting is rather different.

August 6, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.
timbo said...

Harry, are you going to prison? Is that why you are advocating that ex-cons get the vote.

I know, it is probably due to to the fact that ex-cons would vote democrat. Most are either in jail, just got out, or heading to jail in the near future.

August 6, 2012 at 4:08 p.m.
harrishaven said...

Bulbs - "... so you can't prove it is happening because you haven't investigated it enough, so you skip the proof and go right to the solution that will impact innocent people?"

"Dead" people voting isn't enough proof for you? That impacts the vote of innocent people.

Bulbs - "Why not implement an effective ID system first? Why do things backward?"

Nothing backwards here - Voter fraud exists. An ID system HAS been implemented! That's the subject of the editorial (if you haven't taken the time to actually read it yet). You just don't think it's "effective". I think the resistance and weak arguments against it are proof of effectiveness.

Bulbs - "And if the NRA believes in anything, it's that gun control laws don't work, so why support this one if all it does is make more criminals?"

How does supporting a law, proving who you are with a photo ID in order to vote, "make more criminals"??

Bulbs - "Of course that there is a substantive difference between the rights is no matter."

If your Kool-Aid server and you believe the voting rights (of someone that has paid their debt to society) should be restored, why not automatically restore all the rights to "now law-abiding felons who have completed their sentences". At least be consistent with your reasoning instead of "cherry picking" rights for your agenda.

August 6, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
Leaf said...

Southern History Lesson: Chain gangs were once common. Prisoners were used to do labor for private individuals as well as state projects. The prisons and guards profited illegally from their forced labor. So much so, that it didn't take long for the system to be quickly abused. Innocent low income blacks were commonly rounded up and quickly sentenced to a short jail term whenever free labor was needed for a project, or when it was time to pick the crops.

The lesson here is that if there is an incentive to locking people up, then more innocent people will lose their freedom.

August 7, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

So many people are quick to talk about rights, but few talk about responsibility.

August 7, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.
harrishaven said...

One of the most important responsibilities we have is to protect not only our own rights, but each other's as well.

August 7, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.
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