By Jueseppi B.
There is a big push to restrict regular everyday Americans from their right to the ballot box/voting booth. It goes straight to our very Un-Supreme Court and their ruling this summer against a part of The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
There is a push that has been very successful to deny convicted felons the right to vote as well. I’ll bet you could care less about that…..right?
You should care a great deal.
When a convicted felon goes to prison and serves his/her sentence and is released back into society, why is the right to vote still a right denied that ex-felon?
Felony disenfranchisement is not allowing people to vote (known as disenfranchisement) due to their having been convicted of a criminal offence. The right to vote may be temporarily or permanently rescinded. For the affected individual, there are “collateral consequences” including loss of access to jobs, housing, and other facilities. The community to which the felon returns may be unaware of the collateral consequences to the community, including lower percentages of community members who participate in the political process through voting. Opponents have argued that it restricts and conflicts with principles of universal suffrage.
US conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation maintains that felonies are, by definition, serious crimes, and that persons who commit felonies have ‘broken’ the social contract and have thereby given up their right to participate in a civil society unless the ex-offender can prove over time that they are “participating in the social compact that governs our country and comply with the rules of a civil society”.
The Heritage Foundation notes that recidivism is common. Proponents of the disenfranchisement of felons argue that due to the high number of ex-offenders in some communities, the ex-offenders “could have a perverse effect on the ability of law abiding citizens to reduce the deadly and debilitating crime in their communities”.
Since when did a cracka group such as The Heritage Foundation get the right to make rules for America?
The presence of disenfranchised community members may affect social norms related voting. “The process of political socialization has the potential to encourage or discourage political participation among eligible voters…the potential for non-felons living in states with criminal policy regimes that exclude ex-felons from voting to be socialized against political participation, and thus be less likely to participate themselves is suggested”. Research in the USA shows that the affect of felon disenfranchisement is greater in black communities than in non-Hispanic white communities. The likelihood of a non-felon, non-Hispanic white person voting is not affected by having felons in the community.
Felony disenfranchisement has the potential to affect the outcomes of election. “An analysis of recent election data revealed that at least seven senatorial elections and one presidential election would have been decided differently if convicted felons had retained suffrage”. Some also contend that it can be classified as punishment, and cruel and unusual, making it inappropriate in some jurisdictions such as the United States, where it would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment to sentence someone to a lifelong prohibition from voting based on a single felony conviction. If considered as a punishment it is being applied after completion of the penalty or prison sentence imposed as punishment for the crime.
It has also been argued that felony disenfranchisement in some US states, especially Florida in the 2000 Presidential election, de facto amounts to racism. Research by sociologists Jeff Manza and Chris Uggen shows the impact of disenfranchisement on the outcome of elections. Their research also suggests that persons involved in the criminal justice system who vote may have lower rates of recidivism.
Felony disenfranchisement in the USA
In 2008 over 5.3 million people in the United States were denied the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement. Approximately thirteen percent of the United States’ population is African American, yet African Americans make up thirty-eight percent of the prison population. Slightly more than fifteen percent of the United States population is Hispanic, while twenty percent of the prison population is Hispanic. People who are felons are disproportionately people of color. Felon disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect communities of color as “they are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and subsequently denied the right to vote”. Research has shown that as much as 10 percent of the population in some minority communities in the USA is unable to vote, as a result of felon disfranchisement.
Felony disenfranchisement was a topic of debate during the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Rick Santorum argued for the restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders. Santorum’s position was attacked and distorted by Mitt Romney, who alleged that Santorum supported voting rights for offenders while incarcerated rather than Santorum’s stated position of restoring voting rights only after the completion of sentence, probation and parole. President Barack Obama supports voting rights for ex-offenders.
As of 2011 only Kentucky and Virginia continued to impose a lifelong denial of the right to vote to all citizens with a felony record, absent some extraordinary intervention by the Governor or state legislature. However, in Kentucky, a felon’s rights can be restored after the completion of a restoration process to regain civil rights. In 2007 Florida moved to restore voting rights to convicted felons.
In March 2011, however, Republican Governor Rick Scott reversed the 2007 reforms, making Florida the state with the most punitive law in terms of disenfranchising citizens with past felony convictions. In July 2005, Democratic Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack issued an executive order restoring the right to vote for all persons who have completed supervision. On October 31, 2005, Iowa’s Supreme Court upheld mass re-enfranchisement of convicted felons.
Nine other states disenfranchise felons for various lengths of time following their conviction. Except for Maine and Vermont, every state prohibits felons from voting while in prison. Iowa Governor Terry Edward Branstad reversed Vilsack’s executive order.
As of 2010, all the various state felony disenfranchisement laws added together block an estimated 5.9 million Americans from voting, up from 1.2 million in 1976.
Restoration of voting rights for people who are ex-offenders varies across the United States. Primary classification of voting rights include:
Maine and Vermont are the only states with unrestricted voting rights for people who are felons. Both states allow the person to vote during incarceration, via absentee ballot and after terms of conviction end.
Ends after release
In thirteen states and the District of Columbia, disenfranchisement ends after incarceration is complete:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
Ends after parole
Ends after probation
- Arizona (for first time felony offenders)
- Nebraska (Two years after completion of above term)
- Nevada First time and non-violent offenders all others may, “petition a court of competent jurisdiction for an order granting the restoration of his or her civil rights”
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia* (If you have willfully failed to make three payments in a 12 month period on legal financial obiligations, the prosecutor can request the court to revoke your voting rights)
- Alabama All applicants are not eligible for voter rights restoration. To be eligible for voter rights to be restored, the applicant cannot have convictions listed below:
- Impeachment, Murder, Rape (any degree),
- Sodomy (any degree), Sexual Abuse (any degree),
- Incest, Sexual Torture,
- Enticing a Child to Enter a Vehicle for Immoral Purposes,
- Soliciting a Child by Computer,
- Production of Obscene Matter Involving a Minor,
- Production of Obscene Matter,
- Parents or Guardians Permitting Children to Engage in Obscene Matter,
- Possession of Obscene Matter,
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Child Pornography or
- those persons who were convicted of any felony of murder or manslaughter (except vehicular homicide)
- those persons who were convicted of any felony constituting an offense against public administration involving bribery or improper influence or abuse of office, or any like offense under the laws of any state or local jurisdictionof the United States, or of the District of Columbia; or
- those persons who were convicted of any felony constituting a sexual offense, or any like offense under the laws of any state or local jurisdiction or of the United States or of the District of Columbia.
- Mississippi – Suffrage can be restored if “The legislature may, by a two-thirds vote of both houses, of all members elected, restore the right of suffrage to any person disqualified by reason of crime; but the reasons therefor shall be spread upon the journals, and the vote shall be by yeas and nays.
- obtaining money or goods under false pretense,
- Tennessee – Disenfranchisement ends after terms of incarceration, completion of parole, and completion of probation. In addition, the person must pay “Any court order restitution paid; current in the payment of any child support obligations; and/or Any court ordered court costs paid”. The ex-offender must then either obtain a court order restoring their right to vote or complete the certificate of restoration of voting rights.
- Wyoming – Disenfranchisement ends if the crime committed was nonviolent; the person has only been convicted of one felony;it has been five years after completion of terms of incarceration, completion of parole and completion of probation; and the person submits an application in writing to the state board of parole. However, it is up to the discretion of the parole board is rights are reinstated.
Individual petitions required
- Florida – Voting rights are restored by the Florida Board of Executive Clemency. Less serious crimes do not require a
hearing with the clemency board. In those cases, disfranchisement ends after it has been five years after completion of terms of incarceration, completion of parole and completion of probation. An application must be submitted to the court. For those with serious crimes, after seven years, the Florida Executive Clemency Board will decide whether or not to restore voting rights after receiving an application from the ex-offender.
- Only the governor can reinstate Civil Rights. The ex-offender must complete “Application for Restoration of Civil Rights”. Then it is at the governor’s discretion to restore voting rights.
- Virginia – Disenfrancisment ends if the ex-offender is:
- “free from any sentence served or supervised probation and parole for a minimum of two years for a non-violent offense or five years for a violent felony or drug distribution, drug manufacturing offense, any crimes against a minor, or an election law offense
- has paid all court costs, fines, penalties and restitution and have no felony or misdemeanor charges pending; not have had a DWI in the five years immediately preceding the application
- Not have any misdemeanor convictions and/or pending criminal charges 2 years preceding the application for non-violent felonies or five years for a violent felony or drug distribution, drug manufacturing offense, any crimes against a minor, or an election law offense”
The governor can approve or deny the application for restoration of voting rights.
Felony conviction thresholds affected by inflation
Various property crimes can have absolute dollar amount thresholds. For example, in Massachusetts under penalties specified in MGL Chap. 266: Sec. 127, a prosecution for malicious destruction of property can result in a felony conviction if the dollar amount of damage exceeds $250.
America likes to believe it’s criminal justice system helps rehabilitate criminals but the truth is the American criminal justice system does the opposite. Criminals are sent to prison to serve time for convicted crimes. That punishment is supposed to stop upon that convicts release from prison and completion of parole.
If an “EX”- felon is denied the rights under The United States Constitution “that do not endanger other American citizens” such as voting, if that “EX”-felon is continually punished by having their right to cast a ballot denied based on a criminal history and having served his or her time…..payed their debt to society….what does that say about America’s claim at rehabilitation?
Why Can’t Felons Vote?
A certain group of roughly 5.3 million Americans won’t be allowed to vote.
The reason they can’t vote is that they’re felons.
Oh, well. Felons, you say. They’re criminals, for Pete’s sake. Of course they shouldn’t have the right to vote. But why is that, exactly?
Somebody who agrees with Felony Disenfranchisement, please educate me why you believe a convicted “EX”-felon who has served and paid his/her debt to society for committing & conviction of a crime, should be denied the right to vote once released from all penal obligations?
Felons who walk out of prison have served the punishment prescribed by the judicial system. THAT is enough. Penalizing them further by taking away their right to vote is not just unfair to them, it makes a mockery of our “rehabilitation” claims.