Contact
Archives
Search
Blogs
Newspaper Blogs
English-Language
Press
Polls

January 09, 2004

THE RIGHT TO VOTE....Peter Kirsanow at NRO is suspicious of efforts to give felons the right to vote:

A cynic may be forgiven for suspecting that the motivation behind such support has as much to do with political expediency as principle.

I guess I'll take that seriously just as soon as conservatives support the right of DC voters to elect congressmen and senators. I'm sure their longtime opposition to this is based solely on fundamental principle and has nothing to do with the fact that anyone elected from DC would be reliably Democratic.

In any case, I agree with Jesse: Kirsanow forgot an important qualifier. He's talking about ex-felons. For some reason he just can't bring himself to refer to them that way.

I have to admit that many years ago, when I first learned that ex-cons couldn't vote, I was shocked. I had always figured that once you've paid your debt, you've paid your debt. The right to vote ranks with free speech as one of the absolutely most fundamental rights in a democracy, and I honestly can't think of anything short of certifiable mental incapacity to deny it to any adult.

On a more practical level, it bothers me because so many of these ex-felons were convicted on drug charges. Emotionally, it's easy to see why people might not think that child abusers and murderers are fit to vote, but someone who got caught with a few rocks of crack? That's just indefensible.

And whether intentionally or not, it's also seriously racist. Because of the disparity in sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine, a much larger percentage of blacks get convicted on drug charges than whites. The net result is that if you use crack you're much more likely to be denied the right to vote for the rest of your life, and that means that a startlingly large proportion of the black population is permanently denied the right to vote.

It's a bad deal. At the very least laws should be changed to restrict voting only for the most heinous crimes. At best, this fundamental right should be allowed to anyone who's served his time and re-entered civil society.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 9, 2004 10:10 AM | TrackBack


Comments

I know I am virtually alone on this, but I find it shocking that we ever take away someone's right to vote.

Posted by: theCoach at January 9, 2004 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm conservative, and I support the right of DC residents to elect congressmen and senators.

One caveat is I don't want to add two more senators for a small group of people. (Don't lecture me about North Dakota - I don't want any *more* North Dakotas.)

IMHO, DC should be able to vote for the senate races in one of the adjoining states, but should have their own rep(s).

Posted by: J Mann at January 9, 2004 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I'd also like to point out that, of course, ex-felons are not restricted from voting *in every state* so that by moving, or not moving,by coming from a state with more restrictive laws, or less, you can end up having your civil rights stripped or restored. To my mind, this makes the whole thing even worse since it adds another layer of uncertainity and unfairness to the issue. Greg Palast has quite a bit about this in his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and one ofthe issues is that in states where your right to vote is not stripped from you it is very difficult to get the paperwork saying your rights have been "restored" (paperwork that florida, for example, began demanding).

aimai

Posted by: aimai at January 9, 2004 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Here's an email I shot off the author:

One minor detail the author seemed to gloss over:

Most advocates of voting rights for those who have been handed felony convictions focuses on EX FELONS. That is, people who are not currently incarcerated (unlike folks affected by the Utah and Massachussets legislation) The author is certainly wise enough to have made the distinction, but either chose not to clarify or is engaged in a bit of subterfuge. Also left out were any discussion about how minorities are incarcerated for felony drug convictions at rates much higher than whites, such information would have lent a little bit more credibility to the piece. And the opening line about how he's a cynic who believes that the Democrats are trying to make it legal for EX-FELONS to vote is truly hilarious, given the RNC's allergy to letting residents of Washington DC vote for congressional representatives. I'm sure that has plenty to do with reasoned principled reasons and stuff.

Dan Chambers
Urbana, IL

Posted by: Dan Chambers at January 9, 2004 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Restoring ex-felons' right to vote is 'political expediency' [for the Democrats], but of course opposing it isn't [for the Republicans].

Seems to me the right to vote can be one more useful carrot for people on probation--maybe not a hugely important carrot, but still a carrot. The problem is that the conservative philosophy of corrections is 'just say no to carrots'; it's gotta be all stick, all the time. But that's another rant, for another time...

Posted by: Tom Hilton at January 9, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the NRO's Kirsanow rose his voice in indignant protest when the Bush administration decided to employ John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams? They are/were both felons.

Posted by: peter jung at January 9, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

gee I wonder how he feels about Oliver North?

Posted by: Andy at January 9, 2004 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Ex-felons can vote in the UK. It's not a constituency that any party has bothered to nurture, but instinct suggests they'd lean conservative.

Posted by: dave heasman at January 9, 2004 10:33 AM | PERMALINK


Another approach is to make it simply part of the whole sentencing package -- i.e., it ought not be automatic, but it ought to be within the discretion of the judge to build it in, or limit it. It might be something that can work in the sentencing negotiation, too, in a plea bargain.

I agree that there's some serious unfairness in it (at least with respect to drug convictions), and I'm as Republican as they come. But I still don't think this position, by the Democrats to support ex-felon voting, is driven by much other than raw political preference -- they may be right, but spare me the "Republicans are politically unprincipled, and Democrats operate from the highest motives."

This issue has been rising up over the last few years as a way to counter the apparent Republican hold of Congress -- now guys on your side may be right about it (again, at least for drug felons) -- but it was a goal in search of a principle.

Posted by: Andrew at January 9, 2004 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

This one doesn't seem hard to me. Unless part of the penalty for a particular felony is permanent revocation of one's citizenship, then ex-felons should have the vote.

I'm thinking that even incarcerated felons should be permitted to vote...hmmmm

As for DC, why not simply make it part of Maryland or Virginia?

Posted by: spc67 at January 9, 2004 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Going along with your posts the past couple of days discussing the future of Liberalism and the current course of Conservatism, I think both these issues (restoring EX-felon voting rights, and ending DC's lack of representation) will help the rise of liberalism even further (along with the sort of demographic issues folks like Ruy Texeira point out).

If DC enjoyed the representation N Dakota did, the Senate would almost certainly be in Democratic hands. Think about that--we'd have months long hearings on the Plame affair, Halliburton overcharging, Yellowcake, etc. Likewise, ending the Jim Crow-esque ex-felon voting bans would certainly help lock in various Democratic areas and make others far more competitive.

Both ideas, really, have an enormous weight of common sense behind them and almost no principled argument can be made against either. We just need to get them in the media--sure, the ex-felon one could lead to charges of being somehow soft on crime (you know how those upright folks like Krauthammer, Will, et al work). But if we just loudly keep reminding people it's the EX-felons' voting rights we want restored, I think it's a no-brainer. SO many people are unaware of this, and I think overcoming the lack of awareness is most of the battle.

And sooner or later, like civil rights, like gay rights, like so much else, this will be another issue on which liberal democrats will come out clearly on the right side of things, while the GOP will end up red-faced and shamed by history.

The only tricky part, I think, is keeping them from totally destorying our country before the tide turns...

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Personally I would give ex-cons the right back once their probation/parole period ends, but that's just me. If the problem is the racism of disparate impact of the drug laws, though, fix that. If there is injustice in black men going to jail for 10 years for crimes equal to what whites get 1 or less for, and there is, return of the right to cast a meaningless vote is small compensation for 9 lost years in a cage.

Posted by: rvman at January 9, 2004 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Yup. No brainer. Citizenship is not forfeited with embezzlement or marijuana convictions.

I don't like it also on more theoretical grounds of a hypothetical majority writing laws that would disenfranchise their opposition.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at January 9, 2004 10:45 AM | PERMALINK
I'm thinking that even incarcerated felons should be permitted to vote.

Certainly be a check on creeping authoritarianism.

Posted by: cmdicely at January 9, 2004 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

It would be nice if you knew what 'racist' means, since you throw it around on a whim.

Posted by: Ricky at January 9, 2004 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

The Sentencing Project website has a lot of detailed research and position papers on this issue:

www.sentencingproject.org

What it boils down to right now is seven or eight states, mostly in the deep south, that take away voting rights for life. Most other states automatically restore voting rights after completion of a sentence. I find it more than a little alarming that the conservatives at National Review are still arguing in favor of keeping these last vestiges of racist Jim Crow laws in a few states on the books.

Posted by: ldoolin at January 9, 2004 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone asked Kirsanow how he feels about ex-felons COUNTING the votes?

SAN FRANCISCO -- At least five convicted felons secured management positions at a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, according to critics demanding more stringent background checks for people responsible for voting machine software.
http://www.wired.com/news/evote/0,2645,61640,00.html

*

Posted by: Alice Marshall at January 9, 2004 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

It hasn't been explained to me how Democratic control of the Senate, if it leads to years of Democratic torment of Bush similar to the Republican torment of Clinton similar to the Democratic torment of Reagan, benefits the advance of liberal principles. Yellowcake and Plame investigations would not, under any circumstances, advance single payer. Inquiries on Halliburton don't do much for gay rights. It may be fun, but having that focus points to the essential partisan, anti-change bent the modern Democratic party has taken on. Similarly, the post-election focus on Clinton, rather than enactment of "Contract with America" provisions, exemplified the Republicans partisan anti-change bent in the mid-90's. Partisan political Democrat-ness isn't liberalism, it is a rival to liberalism for control of your party. Partisan political Republican-ness isn't Fundamentalism or Libertarianism, it is those two philosophies' rival for control of the Republican party.

Posted by: rvman at January 9, 2004 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

The right to vote ranks with free speech as one of the absolutely most fundamental rights in a democracy, and I honestly can't think of anything short of certifiable mental incapacity to deny it to any adult.

Very true. But, as the decision in Bush v. Gore spelled out clearly, there is no right to vote in the Constitution. The fact that most of us assume this most inalienable of rights to be protected broadly (and not open to the whims of state legislatures and only narrowly protected by the 14th, 15th, and 17th Amendments) shows that we need now more than ever a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote.

And yes, ex-felons should enjoy the franchise too.

Posted by: KevStar at January 9, 2004 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

It is not unreasonable to ask a citizen who wishes to maintain the full rights and responsibilities of a citizen to refrain from committing a felony, and no, permenantly losing one's right to vote is not an unduly harsh consequence for people who decide to become felons. What is unreasonable, however, is how much behavior has been re-defined as felonious in the past 100 years, and the Drug War, of course, tops the list. Rather than seeing that felons regain their right to vote, I would prefer that entire bundles of felonies be removed from the criminal code. Since neither proposition has the slightest chance of being politically viable (although I do occasionally become over-optimistic regarding whether the idiocy of the drug war will become widely recognized), I may as well advocate my pipe-dream, and oppose the pipe dream that I think is unduly considerate of people who have behaved in a violently predatory manner towards their fellow citizens.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

"and that means that a startlingly large proportion of the black population is permanently denied the right to vote."
But hey, they still get to mow our lawns. Wait, we are Boers in Jo'burg, right?

Posted by: John Isbell at January 9, 2004 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you are absolutely right. I too was shocked to learn that ex-felons are denied the right to vote in many states. It's very unfair.

However, I have got to take issue with your characterization as opposition to this as "racist." You did preface your statement with "whether intentional or not," so maybe this dispute is over nothing but language.

However, you appear to be using the term "racist" to mean "has a disproportionate effect on minorities." I think a better definition is "intentionally discriminatory against minorities." Something I once read said that blacks tend to use the former definition of the term, whites the latter. I think the latter is better because all sorts of things have disproportionate effects on minorities that are not at all due to bigotry or discrimination.

I don't think that too many of today's conservatives want to deny black people the right to vote. That kind of thing did happen 40 years ago, and still goes on in a few places, but that kind of racism is pretty rare today, black leaders' periodic hysterical accustations of "intimidation" notwithstanding.

It is certainly possible that conservatives want to deny ex-felons the right to vote because they are more likely to vote for Democrats, but I doubt that this has anything to do with their race. It's not racism, it's partisanship. It's just as morally reprehensible -- advocating the denial of people's right to vote is despicable, whether it is based on racism or party loyalty -- but it isn't racist.

Actually, I think this whole thing is a non-issue. Ex-felons are not likely to vote. In general, the poorer you are, the less likely you are to vote, and ex-felons are often pretty poor. Many have gone on to lead successful lives and are pillars of their community, but I doubt that the votes of ex-felons would make a difference in any given election.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at January 9, 2004 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, there is no such thing as a "ex-felon". Once convicted of a felony, a person is accurately referred to as a felon from then on, independent of that person's status vis-a-vis their sentence.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry rvman, I thought the connection is rather obvious (connection btw Dem Senate and advance of liberal principles).

for one, makes it that much more difficult for horrible legislation to be passed (see medicare bill, possibly see Energy bill), for horrible judges to be confirmed, etc. Then, of course, what I meant by discussing real & public investigations of Plame and yellowcake etc would be their contribution to W's defeat next fall.

I think the Plame scandal stinks; it stinks to high heaven. It's a disgrace on both the Administration, but possibly even more on the media for allowing it to sit and simmer. There is almost certainly a criminal working in the White House; there is most definitely a Senior Administration Official utterly unconcerned by national security, placing a higher priority on petty political revenge than on intelligence gathering. And, of course, that Bush has been so utterly unconcerned about all this speaks volumes about the seriousness of his committment to national security and to running an honest and decent administration.

If this issue were relentlessly publicized and hounded the way Paula Jones or Whitewater was--public hearings, daily stories--I truly think Bush wouldn't have a chance this fall. Unlike PJ/Monica & WW, the Plame deal is a serious--they compromised national security, destroyed a woman's career, endangered a web of CIA intelligence contacts, and for what?? Petty political revenge.

The supposed "integrity" and morality of his personal character--his good ol guy persona--is perhaps Bush's biggest (only?) asset, and this scandal clearly pisses all over it.

With a Democratic senate, we could have seen this receive a great deal more play in the media. And unlike the Republicans with Whitewater, I feel it would have benefited the Dems.

That's all off topic tho. The topic here is how much of a no-brainer restoring voting rights to EX-felons and to DC residents are as issues.

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

The Second Amendment guarantees you the right to own a gun. You lose that right if you are a felon.
Same goes for your "right" to vote.

I can make the same case that "Ex-felons" should be able to own a gun if they did their time and are "reabilitated". I won't because that is as inane as allowing ex-felons to vote.

Will Allen is actually closer to the solution. Too many crimes carry a felony tag that probably shouldn't. That is where the fix lies.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 9, 2004 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Bush v Gore pointed out that there's no right to vote for President. Senators and Representatives are quite another matter.

Anyway, I'll believe Democrats honestly aren't doing this for purely political reasons, when they also come out for restoring ex-felons' right to own guns. (It's not like making it illegal actually stops them, if they haven't gone straight...)

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at January 9, 2004 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

"...but I doubt that the votes of ex-felons would make a difference in any given election.

Does the number 537 mean anything to you, Joe Shmoe? I think there's a clear case to be made that disenfranchisement of felons put Bush in the White House as much as any other factor...

Disenfranching ex-felons is a complete crock.

You've paid your debt, that's it. If you're safe enough to be out on the street, where's the harm in your voting?

Posted by: Mr Furious at January 9, 2004 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

It's a lot less insane letting ex-felons own guns; At least it's POSSIBLE to stop 'em from voting, we're only pretending we can stop 'em from owning guns.

Ditto on too many things being felonies.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at January 9, 2004 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Good post on an important topic. One thing that really got me thinking about this issue was Stephen J. Fortunato's excellent article in Dissent (Summer 2002) noting the effects of taking away the voting rights of (generally) the poor because of drug laws, and how we do not similarly punish corporate criminals. It's a good piece -- check it out.

Posted by: ScottC at January 9, 2004 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Remember 2000 Florida, where even having a name similar to a felon could lose you the right to vote...

Posted by: Chris Leithiser at January 9, 2004 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Furious those were not felons, those were citizens who were scubbed from the voter rolls merely becuase their names were similar to those who were felons.

Republican Think
felons voting = bad
felons counting votes = good
convicted of computer fraud = qualified to program voting machines

Posted by: Alice Marshall at January 9, 2004 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

What is "unfair" about denying felons the right to vote? I can see an argument that the way we determine which people are felons is wrong, in which case the denial of the vote is merely a part of the larger problem of punishing people for behavior that should not be considered felonious. By that logic, prisons are "unfair", because some of the people there should not be.

If the elected legislature of a state has decided that denial of the Franchise is correctly part of the punishment that felons receive, then if someone wishes to retain the right to vote, they best refrain from being convicted of a felony. The felon is free to advocate that people such as himself be given the right to vote, which is what this thread is about, but if the people, through their elected representatives, decide to not do so, what is "unfair" about that? Of course, I think the entire prospect of deciding public policy issues on the basis of "fairness" is untenable, given that "fairness" is an extremely nebulous concept, almost entirely dependent on the vantage point of the person attempting to determine what is "fair", but I suppose that is another topic for argument.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Black Oak - HA HA HA HA HA HA.

You don't let felons own guns because criminals often use guns to commit crimes.

Of course, I have been feeling sort of collectively mugged for the last 3 years, but I doubt many of the 50 million people who voted for Bush did it to get $100 to buy crack.

Posted by: Eli at January 9, 2004 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I think if you looked into it you would find that quietly during the last several years right wing groups have been able to have state constitutions and laws changed to premanently deprive felons of the right to vote. The idea of course is to limit the influence of the black voter. It is obviously despicable conduct.

Posted by: Ed at January 9, 2004 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Political expediency? What a hoot:

"Vote for me and I'll fight tooth and nail to restore the right to vote to the guy who sold your son crack!"

What a brilliant way to win elections.

Posted by: Amitava Mazumdar at January 9, 2004 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Amitava, wow, that was so insightful.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 9, 2004 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Eli:
"You don't let felons own guns because criminals often use guns to commit crimes."

Ah yes. But Kevin's point is that these felons are "ex-felons". All reabilitated. So if they are, why can't they get all their rights back?

Fair is fair. If they are reabilitated enough to get their vote back, why not a "right" that is actually in the Constitution - you know, that second one?

Posted by: Black Oak at January 9, 2004 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Will Allen--

I don't think "fairness" or "unfairness" is really the issue here. The issue is one of democratic principles (and that's little "d," as in political philosophy, not the party).

In Democracies, citizens vote. Generally, the wider the franchise, the better, right? You say that "[i]f the elected legislature of a state has decided that denial of the Franchise is correctly part of the punishment that felons receive, then if someone wishes to retain the right to vote, they best refrain from being convicted of a felony."

Well, why not return to the early days where voting required the ownership of property, or a Y chromosome? After all, if my state's legislature decides that denying the franchise to those too lazy to go out and compete in the marketplace and acquire some property is the correct thing to do, well those lazy buggers best refrain from being renters.

Look, if a person does more than $400 dollars of damage in vandalism, it's a felony in California (according to http://amend3strikes.com/qualify.htm). So that person pays a fine (and I don't know about CA's felon voting laws), and let's say CA has a law barring him from ever voting again. Does that square with your conception of democracy?

Sure, maybe the solution is to redefine what qualifies as a crime which negates one's voting rights to include heinous or violent crimes (armed robbery, murder/manslaughter, some assault, rape, etc). I personally don't.

I think if an 18 year kid is convicted of manslaughter after pummelling another kid in a fight, and is maybe released 20 or so years later, why shouldn't he be able to vote? He's served his sentence. He's paying taxes (presuming he can find a job--altho he's surely paying sales taxes and such). My conception of democratic principles cannot conjure any reason why he shouldn't be able to vote.

What is your conception of democracy Will? Should we bar people in debt from voting (they're irresponsible with their own finances! surely they shouldn't vote for those who hold the public purse strings!)? How about people accused of a crime? How about people with drunk driving arrests (that's awfully poor judgment, after all ;) ). Enlighten me...


The felon is free to advocate that people such as himself be given the right to vote, which is what this thread is about, but if the people, through their elected representatives, decide to not do so, what is "unfair" about that? Of course, I think the entire prospect of deciding public policy issues on the basis of "fairness" is untenable, given that "fairness" is an extremely nebulous concept, almost entirely dependent on the vantage point of the person attempting to determine what is "fair", but I suppose that is another topic for argument.

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=637

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, how dependent are Democrats on the African-American vote?

Without black voters, the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections would have been virtually tied, just like the 2000 election. Oh no, more Florida recounts!

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): What would have happened if no blacks had voted in 2000? Six states would have shifted from Al Gore to George W. Bush: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes, instead of five. A Florida recount? Not necessary.

Right now, there are 50 Democrats in the Senate. How many would be there without African-American voters? We checked the state exit polls for the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections. If no blacks had voted, many Southern Democrats would not have made it to the Senate. Both Max Cleland and Zell Miller needed black votes to win in Georgia. So did Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Bill Nelson in Florida, John Edwards in North Carolina, and Ernest Hollings in South Carolina.

Black votes were also crucial for Jon Corzine in New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, and Jean Carnahan in Missouri. Washington state and Nevada don't have many black voters, but they were still crucial to the victories of Harry Reid in Nevada and Maria Cantwell in Washington.

Nebraska and Wisconsin don't have many black voters either, but Ben Nelson would have lost Nebraska without them and Russ Feingold would have lost Wisconsin, too, in both cases by less than half-a- percent. Bottom line? Without the African-American vote, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be reduced from 50 to 37.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: A hopeless minority. And Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP would not have meant a thing -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We know the Democrats are aware of this. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Oops. that last paragraph is jsut a cut and pasted bit of Will's post to which I was responding.

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

"In any case, I agree with Jesse: Kirsanow forgot an important qualifier. He's talking about ex-felons. For some reason he just can't bring himself to refer to them that way."

False. False. False.

A "felon" is a person who has committed a felony. Used in this sense, it means that the person has been convicted of a felony. But, as Will Allen posted above, it has NOTHING to do with whether the person is currently incarcerated or has been released from prison.

Nice try with your little word play, Kevin.

Posted by: Al at January 9, 2004 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Oak-

What do you think of convicted felons serving in cabinet level positions in the white house?

And these aren't guys who bought some dope, they illegally sold arms to a terrorist-sponsoring nation in order to fund a mercenary squad responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands in central america?

Are you OK with that, or does your "us vs. them" mentality not include old, rich, empowered white men in suits like Otto Reich, John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, and John Negroponte?

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Same question for Al.

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Black Oak: good question.

Here's a question for you--why do you think folks who have served their sentences for felonies should be denied their right to bear arms and their right to vote?

I wonder if any enterprising NRA-supporting attorney has tried challenging the constitutionality of such restrictions on gun-ownership for violating the 2nd amendment. Would seem to be like it could be an interesting case...

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I jus want to add I was only looking for that transcript- I'm not familiar with that website- black electorate.

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

In those states where felons cannot vote, it originated in racism (it was a way to keep the black man from voting), and it continues to be so in many of the states.

In Florida, they have upgraded a series of minor crimes to felony status that disproportionately apply to blacks.

In some states, nearly 30% of black men cannot vote.

This is about keeping minorities, particularly blacks from voting.

I have become convinced that the war on drugs was originally seen by its initial proponents as a way for keeping blacks from voting. Seriously.

Posted by: Matthew saroff at January 9, 2004 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Toluca, if you are truly unable to discern the difference in pummeling another human being to death, and the assault on civil life such behavior entails, and the lack of choice regarding one's chromosomes, or how owning or not owning property has no moral component, or the fact that debt is necessary to a functioning economy (along with having no moral component, it being mutal agreement between parties), and that assaulting civil life rightly carries penalties that, in a republic, as opposed to a pure democracy, elected representatives decide the appropriate punishment, then I doubt it is possible to have a rational discussion with you.

By the way, I only raised the issue of "fairness" because someone else did.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Does this mean that Rush Limbaugh will soon lose his right to vote?

Posted by: clonecone at January 9, 2004 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

"The Second Amendment guarantees you the right to own a gun. You lose that right if you are a felon. Same goes for your "right" to vote. I can make the same case that "Ex-felons" should be able to own a gun if they did their time and are "reabilitated". I won't because that is as inane as allowing ex-felons to vote."

Only if they are part of "A well-regulated militia"

Posted by: Mike at January 9, 2004 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

TolucaJim:

"And sooner or later, like civil rights, like gay rights, like so much else, this will be another issue on which liberal democrats will come out clearly on the right side of things, while the GOP will end up red-faced and shamed by history."

They are never red-faced and shamed by history.

Posted by: Barry at January 9, 2004 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen:

"What is unreasonable, however, is how much behavior has been re-defined as felonious in the past 100 years, and the Drug War, of course, tops the list. Rather than seeing that felons regain their right to vote, I would prefer that entire bundles of felonies be removed from the criminal code. Since neither proposition has the slightest chance of being politically viable (although I do occasionally become over-optimistic regarding whether the idiocy of the drug war will become widely recognized), I may as well advocate my pipe-dream, and oppose the pipe dream that I think is unduly considerate of people who have behaved in a violently predatory manner towards their fellow citizens."

Does anybody else see the contradiction here?

Posted by: Barry at January 9, 2004 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Most ex-cons in most states can petition to have their rights restored. Few bother but that avenue exists.

If I person served their time I have no trouble seeing their rights restored but is this proposal just a trojan horse to eventually extend the vote to prisoners ? Do we really want the active criminal element as a coherent electoral bloc ?

Posted by: mark safranski at January 9, 2004 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, would have no problem with banning all felons from government employment, to say nothing of cabinet officials, which properly speaking, Poindexter or Abrams do not hold. People act as if refraining from committing felonies is some sort of unreasonable bar to have to clear. Well, in those instances in which it is, the corrective should be to not define the behavior as felonious. If someone spends 10 years in prison for behavior that should not be defined as felonious, the fact that he can't vote is far from the most serious problem.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans oppose giving ex-felons the right to vote because it's politically expedient.

Democrats support giving ex-felons the right to vote because it's the right thing to do. (As Kevin points out in his initial post.)

The fact that the media broadcasts this meme the other way round, claiming morality for the Republicans but political expediency for the Democrats, is but one example of our conservative-dominated media.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 9, 2004 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Feel free to enlighten me, Barry.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

The ravages slavery and Jim Crow laws, etc. had upon black america were never really dealt with in any signifigant way. Everything got made right on paper, but just because the law says things are supposed to be a certain way doesn't mean they are. MLK intimated the next step, after paper-protections, would probably have to be some sort of reparations in the form of mass black-community development projects.

That sort of thing never happened, and as much as some people here would like to think we're all immune to history and there is no context to anything, the fact is people, and societies and communities, can get shit-holed and stuck into ruts. Blacks were 3rd class citizens from the beginnings of this nation till the 50s, and the community in general understandably got stuck into a spiral rut.

So the problem after paper-protections were filed is there was no easy method to, well, keep them down. Poverty and marginalization for decades worked pretty well but now you had blacks being fully protected citizens under the law, so rather than living in poverty and being cowed, they were living in poverty and becoming integrated with white folks (oh my!).

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy (though the jury's out on the whole crack cocaine thing), just entrenched, racist interests doing what they could do to keep things how they want them.

There's a reason why tons of black people are incarcerated, and it's got nothing to do with their cultural nor genetic makeup. They were legally shit on forever, illegally (sort of) shit on for decades, and then still shit on, in perfectly legal ways, for decades more. Who wouldn't break under such cicumstances?

Not white people? Well, the Irish would beg to differ with all their IRA'ing and mobbing of the last century. Luckily for the Irish they were white, so...

Anyway... drugs laws make no sense unless you assume some original racist intent. Inner cities being ignnored for decades makes no sense in any way unless you assume some racist intent. After years of this shit the stereotype has started to match reality, but jesus christ, who would expect anything any different?

But of course now people have the reality to back their veiled assertions that black people are just lazy and criminal by nature so there's no reason to do anything except lock them up and keep them out of our neighborhoods.

And please, no conservative argue with "a man should be judged by the content of his character" because MLK would kick you in the groin if he were alive and into kicking idiots in the groin.

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I agree wholeheartedly that residents of DC should be able to elect Congressmen and Senators - Maryland Congressmen and Senators. If DC residents really want to be able to vote for Congress, the only fair and reasonable solution is to return DC to Maryland from whence it came, and let them vote along with the other residents of Maryland. Why in the world would any of the other states agree to give 2 senators to DC? It's ridiculous beyond words.

Posted by: DBL at January 9, 2004 12:18 PM | PERMALINK
If I person served their time I have no trouble seeing their rights restored but is this proposal just a trojan horse to eventually extend the vote to prisoners ? Do we really want the active criminal element as a coherent electoral bloc ?The active criminal element, at leat the part that threatens the life and property of most non-criminal citizens, is mostly outside of prison and usually unconvicted, hence their ability to be active. They generally have the right to vote.
Posted by: cmdicely at January 9, 2004 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh come on Will Allen. Sure I was exagerrating somewhat--surely your opposition to felon voting rights doesn't stem from the senseless bigotry which supported denying the franchise to those lacking property or a Y chromosome....but what about Trent Lott, Rick Santorum, et al? Somehow, I'm not so sure their opposition to felon voting stems from anything more than crass political calculation and hatred.

Also, you neglect to answer my most basic question, so I'll pose it again.

What conception of democracy (or, as you technically note, republicanism) do you hold and which causes you absolutely no trouble to see someone permanently lose the franchise for committing $400 of property damage, selling one rock of crack, etc etc?

Maybe you disagree about the violent felonies--and that's fine. I understand that. But I believe that people can change, believe in forgiveness (GWB ought to as well, being such a good christian and one whose earlier life--alcoholism and likely drug abuse--needs much forgiving). And if somebody comes out of prison after serving his/her full time, I can't conscionably deny them the rights other citizens enjoy. Yes, they've made a mistake, quite possibly a mortal and egregious one, but they've paid their dues to society to the point that we're willing to let them return and live among us. I'm also willing to let them vote alongside me as well. Why aren't you?

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Tim:
"What do you think of convicted felons serving in cabinet level positions in the white house?"

First - this is a strawman. We are talking about voting - not working.

Second - I really like Will Allen's point that some crimes shouldn't qualify as a felony. Thereby eliminating half this outrage. Dime bag - no. Assault with intent - Yes.

TolucaJim:
"Here's a question for you--why do you think folks who have served their sentences for felonies should be denied their right to bear arms and their right to vote?"

Because I don't have a problem with either one. Commit a crime and you pay a price. That price includes the loss of the right to bear arms and vote. Since I'm a law abiding citizen - I don't really worry about losing these rights.
I have zero sympathy for the Dime Store Hood who shot a gas station attendant for $45.00. In my world he would die (quickly) and no longer be a burden to society (Oooh, I know that sounded cold).

Posted by: Black Oak at January 9, 2004 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Jesurgislac, those well-known raging Republicans, Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw, who more Americans get their news from than any other sources, and are editors-in-chief of their broadcasts, wile away their hours thinking of ways to spread memes that screw the Democrats. Excuse me, I must report to the landing pad, my black helicopter is departing.......

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 12:22 PM | PERMALINK
I can make the same case that "Ex-felons" should be able to own a gun if they did their time and are "reabilitated". I won't because that is as inane as allowing ex-felons to vote.

But for lack of funding for processing the requests, the law already allows ex-felons rights to own guns to be restored, IIRC.

Posted by: cmdicely at January 9, 2004 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Safranski: Do we really want the active criminal element as a coherent electoral bloc ?

I don't know about you, but most of the information I know about prisons and felonious activity is from fiction, and of course, from politicians around election time when they want to curry favor. It might behoove our system to hear from those who are directly affected. God knows, they might have some direct input that could conceivably do some good. Furthermore, I very much doubt they would be a "coherent voting block".

Posted by: chris at January 9, 2004 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Tim wrote: "drugs laws make no sense unless you assume some original racist intent." I assume that Tim is very young because only someone with no knowledge or memory beyond the past year or so could say something like this. Does anyone else here remember when crack cocaine first appeared in the inner cities? How the demands for the suppression of the crack trade were lead by black leaders who were horrified at what crack was doing to their communities?

I can guarantee this: if recreational drugs were legalized tomorrow, the Tims of the world would kvetching about how that was an evil racist plot to destroy black communities by dragging young black people into a life of degradation and ruin. Who dares to deny this?

Posted by: DBL at January 9, 2004 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oak-

No, we're talking about the loss of democratic rights- voting being one of the most important.

Again, do you have no problem with felons serving in senior positions at the white house? A felon representing us at the UN?

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ah Black Oak, I see. I guess I didn't see that clause in the constitution about the 2nd Amendment not applying if you got caught selling somebody a dime bag.

I guess it must be right next to that clause that states John Ashscroft doesn't need to ask a judge for a search warrante to conduct a sneak-and-peek search of your apartment if he's got a "National Security Letter" certifying that, in some vague way, the search is part of our efforts to "combat terrorism."

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, did you have to immediately follow this up with Friday Cat Blogging (putting this post right below it on the page)?

Your first sentence talked about "giving felons the right to vote" and I had to do a double-take: "Wait, voting felines? What?"

... But at least cats vote Democrat, right? Didn't you blog about that once?

Posted by: Baxil at January 9, 2004 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

DBL-

You assume wrong, asshole. I remember black tar, crack, all that shit. And black leaders freaking out about it doesn't have any relevance to my argument. Of course they would freak out about it because it was effecting their community the most. The question is why was it effecting their community the most, why wasn't it dealt with well, why was our only solution to create masses of felons for possession and intent?

I'm assuming you're another goddamn troll who ignores arguments and bases everything on their knee-jerk assumptions.

And BTW- I was young when it all hit the streets. Young and stupid. Guess what I thought? "Boy those black people sure are fucked up"- or something along those lines because, you see, I was an idiot. So I can relate to you.


Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

"I can make the same case that "Ex-felons" should be able to own a gun if they did their time and are "reabilitated". I won't because that is as inane as allowing ex-felons to vote."

Well, I guess it puts me on the lunatic fringe of the libertarian party, but at least it proves me no lefty. But yup, votes and guns, after the end of parole. Second Amendment absolutist.

For the same reason, a majority in a society taking advantage of their law-making status to make opposition difficult or impossible. Think Germany in early thrties.

But this time I don't suppose anyone here needs to discuss it. It ain't gonna happen.


Posted by: bob mcmanus at January 9, 2004 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Toluca, I don't think causing $400 of property damage (1st offense) or selling cocaine (ever) should be considered felonious behavior, so I don't think people who do so should suffer the consequences of being a felon. On the other hand, I believe in a republican form of government (I greatly oppose democracy), so if elected representatives have deemed that felonious behavior, which rightly is restricted to those behaviors which greatly threaten civil life, is properly punished by permenant loss of the right to vote, I have no problem with that. Forgiveness is a spiritual issue, and not within the scope of debate of government policy. If the victim of embezzlement or robbery wishes to forgive their transgressor, fine, but that has exactly nothing to do with what a duly elected legislative body decides is the proper punishment for behavior that represents a serious assault on civil life.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Re: voting & gun rights: If there were a way to restrict guns only from those felons involved in violent crimes, then that would be fair. Just because you serve your time, doesn't mean you got over your anger issues. But if you got hit for embezzlement, you probably weren't packing and I don't suspect you would be headed to the gun section of WalMart (or wherever people buy guns) the minute you got your Get Out Of Jail card.

But denying the right to vote? That just doesn't make sense. Maybe if you were convicted of voter fraud (is that a felony?)... There is no justification in a democracy for denying the vote.

Posted by: chris at January 9, 2004 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

It is dangerous to allow the removal any citizen's rights. If Felons have served the sentences (include parole) all their rights should be returned. This includes the right to own a gun. If these individuals can not be trusted with guns, then they should not be let out. A knife, bat, or car can be equally deadly.

Concerning DC. Incorporate DC into one of the neighboring states. This gives the residents of DC a vote for house and senate without further diluting the representation of the 45+ larger states. It also has the additional benefit of removing direct congressional control over the city.

Posted by: james at January 9, 2004 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

For the same reason, a majority in a society taking advantage of their law-making status to make opposition difficult or impossible. Think Germany in early thrties.

That's actually a very good point, and it can indeed, and does indeed happen here.

Remember Florida in 2000? Hundreds scrubbed from voter rolls that shouldn't have been?

Laws stop being just the moment they are designed to entrench the interests of the ruling elite. It's not so rampant nor overt here, but god yes we have that here in the grand ol' USA. The drug laws are the biggest example, the increasing tendency to interpret or pass legislation that favors corporations over municipalities is another. Jebus, NAFTA's chapter 11 is about as facsist as you can get.

Posted by: Tim at January 9, 2004 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, people in California who have served their prisons sentences and parole terms related to any felony convictions DO have the right to vote, and to run for office. At least one quixotic candidate for governor (B.E. Smith, from beautiful Trinity County, eastern leg of the Emerald Triangle) had served federal time on marijuana charges and was running (such as he did) on a marijuana-legalization platform.

Most Southern states never restore your franchise, but it is not a nationwide law.

Posted by: bruce at January 9, 2004 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Tim:
"No, we're talking about the loss of democratic rights- voting being one of the most important."

No, we're talking about giving felons back the right to vote. Not where a felon can work. I'm not picking up the straw man - so please burn it.


Tolucajim:
"I guess I didn't see that clause in the constitution about the 2nd Amendment not applying if you got caught selling somebody a dime bag"

Huh? What I said was that I agree (w/Will Allen) that there are too many crimes that bring a felony conviction that aren't a felony. The Dime Bag example being one.

As noted by Mark Safranski, most of these felons can get their right to vote back. Why they don't do this isn't my problem.

I don't think granting ex-cons w/felony convictions the right to vote is the answer. Let's reduce the severity of the dime-bag example so that that person won't lose his right to vote. Barring extreme circumstance - say being convicted 10 times for selling said dime bag. At a certain point, continued criminal action warrants harsher penalties.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 9, 2004 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

chris, I am not trying to be pendantic, but we don't live in a democracy. For the purposes of this discussion, it is a non-trivial distinction.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

how about we do something about the 40-50% of eligible voters that don't even bother to go to the polls before we worry about felons??


**i don't have a solution myself. just figured i'd ask the question

Posted by: sean at January 9, 2004 12:53 PM | PERMALINK
how about we do something about the 40-50% of eligible voters that don't even bother to go to the polls before we worry about felons??

Well, becuase its more urgent to deal with a right denied than one that the holder merely chooses not to exercise (or chooses to exercise via abstention), for one reason.

Of course, I'm all for proposals like preference voting and multimember districts and others that give people disillusioned with the current two-party system more reason to show up and vote, too.

Posted by: cmdicely at January 9, 2004 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

i'm not being pendantic either. i prefer to be pedantic ;o)

Posted by: sean at January 9, 2004 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

Black Oak, get a grip. You're totally ignoring the real point I was making.

I'll repost my comment (slightly altered):

Ah Black Oak, I see. I guess I didn't see that clause in the constitution about the 2nd Amendment not applying if you're convicted of armed robbery/manslaughter.

I guess it must be right next to that clause that states John Ashscroft doesn't need to ask a judge for a search warrante to conduct a sneak-and-peek search of your apartment if he's got a "National Security Letter" certifying that, in some vague way, the search is part of our efforts to "combat terrorism."

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why in the world would any of the other states agree to give 2 senators to DC? It's ridiculous beyond words.

Why should the in excess of 1/2 million citizens of DC be treated any differently than other states with small populations? Not only does DC have a population in excess of at least one state (Wyoming) and similar to others (Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont), we also pay one of the highest per-capita federal income tax rates in the nation.

Posted by: Citizen of DC at January 9, 2004 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

That's pretty good, sean, and I was waiting to see how long it took. D'ohhh!

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

thanks, will!

cmdicely--i've always thought that election day should be a paid holiday, so no one would have the excuse of being at work. however i think that would soon turn into another shoping day like MLK Day, Presidents Day, Mem. Day, etc.

Posted by: sean at January 9, 2004 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

TolucaJim:

"Ah Black Oak, I see. I guess I didn't see that clause in the constitution about the 2nd Amendment not applying if you're convicted of armed robbery/manslaughter."

To the Second Amendment purist, you and I should be able to have grenades, gatlin guns, Tommy guns and Stinger Missiles. I don't, but that's just me. Same goes for the guy who murdered his ex-wife. He gave up the right to own a gun. But again, that's just me.

But I take responsibility for my actions. I know that should I punch a guy in a fight, and said guy goes into a coma and then dies, if I am convicted for that action, I will lose my right to vote and to own a gun. I accept that.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 9, 2004 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Will, how the heck are obviously stupid laws like the drug ones going to be repealed if everyone who breaks them can't vote?

Posted by: Jason McCullough at January 9, 2004 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

"we also pay one of the highest per-capita federal income tax rates in the nation"

You pay the same rates everyone else does. I think you mean on average DC residents have higher income and pay more taxes?

Posted by: Campesino at January 9, 2004 01:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Remember Florida in 2000? Hundreds scrubbed from voter rolls that shouldn't have been?"

According to the Palm Beach Post who did a follow-up it was 108 people. The law that required the "scrubbing" was sponsored in the legislature by two Democrats and signed into law by Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat. That was not nearly as bad a self-inflicted wound as the Democrat designed "butterfly ballot".

Posted by: Campesino at January 9, 2004 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Black Oak, glad to see you so blithely accept the violation of our Constitution.

It does a great deal to explain to me why so many Americans seem so little concerned about the idiots running our country into the ground (and running roughshod over the Constitution in the process).

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Jason, it is a conumdrum I'll have to shoulder.:o

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 01:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, Will--check your email.

Posted by: TolucaJim at January 9, 2004 01:29 PM | PERMALINK

TolucaJim,

Puhleeez! Not granting a felon the right to buy a gun is nothing when talking about gun ownership restrictions that have taken place over the last 25 years (or more).

I own a gun that would be considered an assualt weapon because of that stupid assault ban law. It's pre-ban, so it's not.

This country (and me) has more to worry about when it comes the deconstruction of the Constitution than the right to own a gun by a convicted felon. They aren't even on my radar.

Posted by: Black Oak at January 9, 2004 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with you. But just wondering: why didn't the then Democrat-controlled congress give DC the right to vote?

Posted by: mistersmed at January 9, 2004 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think I picked this up from a discussion on this issue at Crooked Timber a while back, but it seems to me that a libertarian position on punishment might go like this:

1) Since liberty is the primary, perhaps only social good worthy of protection, we'd better be damn careful about when and why we restrict it.

2) Punishment must have a coherent purpose to be justified. Here are three that I can think of:

Restitution: making the victim whole again.

Deterrence.

Protecting society from the criminal behavior of the person in question.

What else is there? The primary rationale for punishment not listed here is retribution, but I simply don't see how that could plausibly be consistent with a limited government that is value neutral whenever possible.

Now, I suppose you could make an argument that losing the right to vote is a form of deterrence, but I seriously doubt this would be turn out to be the case. Unless you want to make this rather difficult argument, I don't see how a consistent libertarian position can avoid allowing felons the right to vote, both before and after their release from prison.

Agreed that the overuse of the classification of felon is probably a bigger issue here.

Will Allen: The right of felons has been restored in several states, in two states the right to vote extends to prisoners as well. For the deep south, this remains an under-the-radar surviving form of Jim Crow, and as such might be pretty hard to get rid of, but given the change that has been seen on this issue in recent decades, it's hardly a pipe dream on the scale of reclassifying most felonies.

Finally, I find it interesting that there seems to be more sympathy here for the right of most actually existing (ex)felons to vote than there was in the discussion at Crooked Timber, IIRC. Generally things are a fair bit more conservative around these parts. Don't really know what to make of it.

Posted by: DJW at January 9, 2004 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

A felon is someone who has committed a felony?

Possessing even a tiny amount of powder cocaine is a felony.

George Bush has tacitly admitted that he did cocaine in the 70's and perhaps early 80's. (Just that it was "over 27 years ago" and was therefore exempt from mandatory self-reporting and declaration on the FBI background check for all federal employees - like presidents. Remember this during the election?)

I assume conservatives either want him arrested, or they believe, on principle, that people who commit felonies shouldn't necessarily be convicted.

Posted by: andrew at January 9, 2004 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I knew you were soft on crime! Just remember what Jesus said: "It is easier for a vial of crack to get into heaven than for George Bush to pass through the eye of a camel."

It should also be a felony for anyone who is not a registered Republican to get within 1 mile of Bush or Cheney. Don't let them get away with just a fine!

Posted by: MattB at January 9, 2004 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

"On a more practical level, it bothers me because so many of these ex-felons were convicted on drug charges. Emotionally, it's easy to see why people might not think that child abusers and murderers are fit to vote, but someone who got caught with a few rocks of crack? That's just indefensible."

I'm not against barring ex-felons from voting when they are the traditional types of felons--murderers, rapists, robbers, child molestors... but I'll agree that these drug defendants shouldn't be punished in the same way. Of course I'm for legalization of most drugs so there you go.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at January 9, 2004 02:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mistersmed, spc67, and all the others that seem to have the ideal solution for the DC Vote--

DC ought to be lumped in with Maryland when West Virginia gets lumped in with Virginia, or Nevada gets lumped in with California. It is patronizing to say all DC needs to do is vote with Marylanders. First, DC wants its own representaton. Why deny them? Vermont and Wyoming get theirs. Second, what makes you think Marylanders want DC voters?

How about if we lump the 90% Dem DC voters with Utah to balance things out a bit?

As for "giving" DC the right to vote, it's quite a bit more complicated than that. We tried to get an amendment to the Constitution to do that, and yes, we were blocked by all those big, empty, low population GOP states out west.

Why give DC 2 Senators and a Congressperson? Because it is the right thing to do. Taxation without representation--alive and well 200+ years after our own revolution. If you want to make DC a federal income-tax free zone, that would be just fine.

No, pure and simple, it is ugly GOP politics. Blocking an amendment to the US constitution and happily denying Congressional representation to 600,000 taxpaying US citizens.

Posted by: 537 votes at January 9, 2004 02:07 PM | PERMALINK

This is precisley the reason I want Rush Limbaugh to get convicted for his doctor scamming. The felony conviction alone even if all his time would be enough for me. Having to live with that stigma would be an inspirational lesson, I belive.

What is funny is that William Burroughs describes exactly what Rush did in Junky. The only difference is that he knew people that got busted and sent up for it. As do I.

Posted by: hector at January 9, 2004 02:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'd fully support making D.C. a tax free zone.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 02:13 PM | PERMALINK

I just cannot resist this anecdote.

The current Premier of the Yukon (roughly equivalent to a state govenor, even though you don't have any states this small) served just under 2 years in a federal pen after being convicted of heroin trafficing about 25 years ago. His deputy premier (and Minister of health and a few other things) served weekends in the local jail a while back for theft after he was caught bypassing the electrical meter on his hotel. He is still affectionately known as Peter, Peter the Meter Cheater. They are torys (conservatives).

The story about the Premier's pen time (but not exactly what he was in the pen for) broke during the election a year or so ago. Most voters were outraged at the muckraking, he'd served his time and had kept his nose clean for 25 years so what was the problem? He and his party romped in for a solid majority.

Even when the heroin trafficing part of the story emerged a couple of months ago, the reporter that broke the story got more grief than the Premier.

I wonder what the reaction in any state of the US would have been?

Yukoner

Posted by: Yukoner at January 9, 2004 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

Campesino claims that only 108 people were scrubbed from the Florida rolls.

Odd; no one disagrees that Katherine Harris ordered the removal of 57 700 voters from the electoral roll. Nor does anyone dispute that over 90% of those voters whose names were ordered to be removed were not felons, and were entitled to vote. That would make 51 930 voters whom Katherine Harris illegally ordered should lose their votes: not to mention 8 000 voters who had committed misdemeanours, and who were still entitled, under Florida law, to vote.

After the election, the NAACP sued Katherine Harris. And they won.

Of course, the voters didn't go back on the electoral roll in time to vote in the gubernational election. They might just have voted against the Republican governor whose employee had them disenfranchised.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 9, 2004 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

Taxation without representation.

Posted by: praktike at January 9, 2004 02:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I'd really like it if you gave this subject more thought and then approached it again.

Posted by: CAJ at January 9, 2004 02:27 PM | PERMALINK

This whole "DC should get to vote with Maryland" thing is ridiculous. It takes two to tango, and why should Maryland have to take DC back for residents of DC to get the same rights as everybody else? Why are the voting rights of DC residents somehow Maryland's responsibility? DC, as the federal district laid out in the constitution to be the nation's capital, is the responsibility of the whole country, and if people think its residents deserve voting rights, they should give them the same voting rights as everyone else. Especially since there's no way in hell Maryland's ever going to take back DC.

Posted by: John at January 9, 2004 02:51 PM | PERMALINK

Lord. DJW makes the point better than I can, since I'm practically sick to my stomach after reading through all this shit.

What strikes me about people like Will is that they are wrapped in a blanket of privilege so thorough and pervasive they don't even see it. They are perfectly happy to support denying other citizens the most fundamental recourse of self-government as long as it strokes their unearned sense of moralism. After all: the penalties they talk about so lightly will never be applied to them, will they? It's not their own welfare or participation in their own government at risk, is it?

Everyone -- no matter our moral judgements of them, no matter their location, color, sex, size, character, whatever, as long as they are a citizen of this country -- should be allowed to vote. To do otherwise is to create a subset of citizens with no non-violent way of defending their rights, no way of fighting back against the tendency of the majority to offload costs and penalties onto them without end.

We're talking about 30% of the black men in Florida. Now tell me, if you're a black felon in Florida, and there's a racist shithead running for governor who plans to pass legislation that would seriously damage the ability of your friends and family to work their way out of poverty (this is purely hypothetical, of course) -- what do you do? What are your options?

The casual, self-involved moralism demonstrated by some commenters here honestly makes me sick.

Posted by: Realish at January 9, 2004 02:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Will, I find it interesting that you think fewer crimes should be defined as felonies, and fewer acts should be defined as crimes (as I do), but you support this horrendous bullshit anyway. Pretty casual, huh? No skin of your back, after all.

Hey, maybe one day your libertarian la-la brothers will succeed in rolling back harsh laws. Until then, well, tough luck to the entire communities of black guys who can't vote.

Posted by: Realish at January 9, 2004 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Safranski says: Do we really want the active criminal element as a coherent electoral bloc?

We already have that. It's called the Republican Party.

(Rimshot.)

Slightly more serious answer: Seeing as how we already have private prison corporations lobbying in favor of expanded mandatory minimum sentencing, it seems only fair to give jailbirds the vote.

Posted by: doctor memory at January 9, 2004 02:58 PM | PERMALINK

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the District of Columbia carved out of Maryland for the expressed purpose of not being a state? Philadelphia and then New York were the first Capitals, and the District was created so that no state would have "undue influence". If we give 2 Senators and a US Rep., wouldn't the District become a de facto state? If you need a Senator, move to Virginia.

Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech at January 9, 2004 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

yes, Realish, I think that people who want to participate as full citizens should refrain from committing felonies, and I think that we should elect legislators who understand what a felony is, and what the proper role of the state's regulation of the citizenry is. Of course, this would preclude electing most Democrats and Republicans, but this isn't the first instance where I've disagreed with most of the electorate.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

I agree Leech, but I am sensitive to the objection to taxation without representation, so I'm more than happy to make D.C. free from federal taxes.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 9, 2004 03:20 PM | PERMALINK

Very late to this discussion so rather than reading all the comments, I'll just say Bravo Kevin.

Posted by: Stuart at January 9, 2004 04:02 PM | PERMALINK

"Campesino claims that only 108 people were scrubbed from the Florida rolls."

Not what I said. The PB Post claims that only 108 eligible non-felons can be substantiated as prevented from voting.

"After the election, the NAACP sued Katherine Harris. And they won."

The case never went to trial. The NAACP settled.

Posted by: Campesino at January 9, 2004 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

"If we give 2 Senators and a US Rep., wouldn't the District become a de facto state? If you need a Senator, move to Virginia."

Wow, incredible commentary there. I didn't realize some people believed you have to move WITHIN the United States to have appropriate representation. How American.

Posted by: Double B at January 9, 2004 05:20 PM | PERMALINK

Double B-
In 1959 Alaska and Hawaii became states. Prior to that they were territories, and had no Senators. They voted for Statehood. The District of Columbia was set up specifically not to be a state. It is that simple. An exemption from Federal income tax is an interesting idea, but I think the current residents would soon be priced out of the market as the millionaires move in.

Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech at January 9, 2004 05:38 PM | PERMALINK

To the first poster: the Coach

I agree completely. The vote should never be taken away from any citizen.

Would murders vote to legalize murder? Maybe, but they'd have to run a candidate, and who else would vote for him? Would convicted crack users want to legalize drugs? Probably, and they might even sway a race or two. So what?

The problem with denying even incarcerated felons the vote is two-fold. First, it deprives a voting bloc against bad laws. Second, where laws are enforced unequally (as Cal said), it allows laws to be used by those in power to disenfranchise those who might vote them out.

Sorry, but voting is too sacred for the ability to vote to be left in the hands of current politicians.

Posted by: Benedict@Large at January 9, 2004 07:45 PM | PERMALINK

The District of Columbia was set up specifically not to be a state.

Huh?

US Constitution, Art I, Sec 8, Clause 17: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.

And where in this passage does it say, "And inhabitants of such District shall be deprived representation in the Congress"?

Anyway, what's your point? If I lived in Georgetown, Maryland in 1790, I suddenly lost the right to be represented in Congress because my neighborhood was part of the "ten Miles square" designated as DC that year?

You would think they would have told those Georgetowners at the time that they were losing all rights of representation guaranteed to them the year before if your reading were correct.

Besides, what's wrong with amending the Constitution anyway to permit them the right to representation?

It's a stinking GOP power play and you need to admit that.


Posted by: 537 votes at January 9, 2004 08:46 PM | PERMALINK

Realish--I have a strong stomach for this sort of thing. I've developed it over the years. Long story.

For those of a libertarian bent, under what theory of punishment is the removal of the right to vote justified? Because they behaved badly doesn't cut it, it's not an argument. It's rhetoric. Liberty is the good stuff. You've got to have a specific, positive reason to remove this privilege. If it's not one of the three reasons I listed above, what is it?

Punishment is a fun ishue, becuase a great deal of self styled libertarians who are actually conservatives in denial get real surprised and irritated when you point out to them that they really can't favor punishmentment for the purposes of retribution while adhering to libertarian logic.

Posted by: DJW at January 10, 2004 03:20 AM | PERMALINK

Misspellings above due to drunkenness. I stand by any substantive points I may have made.

Posted by: DJW at January 10, 2004 03:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'm consistently further "right" than most Calpundit commentators, but I think it's shameful that we remove the franchise from criminals. One citizen, one vote.

=darwin

Posted by: Darwin at January 10, 2004 04:07 AM | PERMALINK

I think that if felons are serving their sentence, then they should not be afforded the right to vote, along with other rights, such as free speech (they're in jail), the freedom to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages (they're in jail), or the right to own and bear arms (they're in jail). Outside of that, once they've paid their debt to society they should be afforded the rights of any other citizen of the United States. Can anyone tell me why this should not be so?

Posted by: Jesse in SD at January 10, 2004 05:12 AM | PERMALINK

Votes for serving prisoners is an obvious non-starter. Many prisons are in rural areas and the inmates would be a majority in their local area.

Can you imagine the problems if the mayor and the majority of the town council of a prison town were inmates?

As far as whether convicted felons can be denied the vote, see 14th Amendment, Section 2:

But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Note that the Constitution seems to explicitly permit denial of voting rights for crimes, and not just felonies by the way.

The status of the District of Columbia is also set in the Constitution.

Compare with the Second Amendment - there is nothing in the constitution that suggests that it is any less applicable to felons than the First Amendment.

Mike

Posted by: Mike at January 10, 2004 09:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think the distinction between crack and coke is irrelevant since possession or sale of either is still a felony, and the length of the term of sentence isn't the crucial factor in whether voting rights are returned eventually (although, obviously, those with shorter terms would have their voting rights returned far more rapidly).

What is a more vital matter is where the cops go looking for drugs in the first place, and it's much more likely to be black neighborhoods, although there is no reason to think that blacks (or even poor blacks) are more likely to be committing felony drug violations than whites (or even relatively well-off whites).

So we have this enormous population of convicts/ex-cons who were convicted as a fairly direct result of being black, and this other population of criminal actors whose voting rights remain unencumbered because the police never went after them in the first place.

The distinction between ex-cons and "the innocent" is largely insignificant - it's a matter of who got busted and throw in jail, not who actually committed crimes. And, as we all know, if you have the right kind of money and connections, you can even get caught and avoid going to jail - but sentenced to 4-8 years in the White House.

Posted by: Avedon at January 10, 2004 09:38 AM | PERMALINK

The reason for extending the universal franchise is not so voters can get what they want- it is because democracy works better when everyone votes. In the past every argument used against felons today has been used against women, blacks, non-citizens, people with mental disabilities, people with physical disabilities, etc. The whole argument for the universal franchise rests on our historical experience. Kings, oligarchies and dictatorships have been disappearing because they don't work as well as democracy.

It's quite obvious that the anti-drug hysteria is really just code-language for punishing hippies and blacks. Correct for income disparity and alcohol use and the 'crack-baby' phenomena disappears. Crack and powdered cocaine are the same in potency. As for why black 'community leaders' decried the 'drug plague', look no further than their habits of denial that mean they can't talk about homosexuality or AIDS.

When it became obvious that black people would finally get the vote, the white power structure started a 'drug war'. This is the same power structure that said the white Southerner was smart enough to vote, but blacks weren't, because they couldn't pass 'literacy' tests. Get real.

Posted by: serial catowner at January 11, 2004 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

DC has been functioning separately from Maryland long enough that it makes more sense to make it a full-fledged state than to absorb it back into MD. I say this living two blocks from the state line from it. Marylanders think of it as a separate state. Give 'em their senators.

If you think it should be absorbed into MD, why not recombine the Virginias or the Dakotas? Discuss.

Posted by: A Texan in Maryland at January 11, 2004 04:21 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, that's so true.

Posted by: disc makers at August 11, 2004 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

You really think so?

Posted by: storage area networks (SAN) at August 18, 2004 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

Great post! We're on the same page as usual.

Posted by: text links at August 19, 2004 07:20 PM | PERMALINK
Navigation
Contribute to Calpundit



Advertising
Powered by
Movable Type 2.63

Site Meter