Ex-Cons The Forgotten — and Now Manipulated – Voting Block

by Diane Dimond on August 15, 2016

So, have you decided who you will vote for in the upcoming presidential election – or whether you’ll vote at all?  As you ponder that, realize that nearly 6 million Americans will not be allowed to vote this November. Who are they?

You Going To Vote For President?

You Going To Vote For President?

They are citizens who have been convicted of felonies and either live in a state that prohibits ex-cons from ever casting a ballot or they live in a state that requires a years-long waiting period before they are allowed to step foot in a voting booth.

Wait, you might be wondering:  Isn’t voting a constitutional right? Nope. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is a citizen explicitly guaranteed the right to vote. It is up to each state to set its own voting rules.

The experts who study this stuff call what’s happening to these 6 million citizens “disenfranchisement” and they note it hits certain segments of the population particularly hard.

voting-is-fundamental sign

Record Numbers of Felons Means a Diminished Voting Pool

The folks at The Sentencing Project, for example, says that as the U.S. dramatically expanded the prison population over the last four decades the, “Laws have significantly affected the political voice of many American communities.” In other words, swaths of urban neighborhoods, specifically, those with high concentrations of imprisoned or formerly imprisoned African Americans, now have a much diminished say in who our next commander-in-chief will be.

Among the latest statistics:  48 states ban voting by all incarcerated citizens. About a dozen of those states restrict an ex-con’s voting rights even after he or she has served their prison sentence and are no longer on probation or parole. Most of the other states make an ex-felon wait between two and five years after they’ve completely passed through the judicial system before they can apply for the privilege of voting. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no ban on voting. Even if the person lives in a prison cell and committed a heinous crime they are allowed to vote.

the sentencing project logo

Look, before taking out the crying towel let’s remember these citizens who have been stripped of their voting rights are in that situation because they put themselves there. Let’s not forget they were found guilty of committing serious crimes. (The fact that there may be some wrongful convictions involved is a topic for another column) But all that said, is it fair to disenfranchise millions of Americans from the election process after they have paid their debt to society?

The Governor of Virginia thinks it is not fair. In the Commonwealth of Virginia one in four African Americans is permanently banned from casting a ballot.  So, back in April, democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order that instantly restored voting rights to more than 206,000 ex-cons who had completed their probation or parole obligations.

Terry-McAuliffe-virginia

It’s worth noting that for decades Blacks have overwhelmingly voted democratic, Virginia is considered swing territory for the 2016 race and Governor McAuliffe is a longtime fundraiser and friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Creating more than 200-thousand new voters just months ahead of the November election — voters believed to lean toward the democratic party – didn’t sit well with Virginia republicans. They took the matter to the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court which has now ruled Governor McAuliffe overstepped his clemency authority when he sought such a bulk reinstatement of voting rights. True to the twists and turns of politics McAuliffe now says he’ll set his autopen’s speed on high and issue the same blanket clemency one case at a time.

Will Governor McAuliffe’s machinations help Hillary Clinton win Virginia in November? Will the newly reinstated ex-convicts actually register and show up to vote? Are officials in other states – be they republicans or democrats – engaged in similar politically tinged intrigues?  You can bet some are.

And that, my fellow Americans, is how the political game is played in America these days.hometypewriter-150x150

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond August 15, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Noozhawk Reader rogerclegg writes:

“If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t
demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote.
The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in.
Read more about this issue on our website here [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/v… ] and our congressional testimony here: [ http://judiciary.house.gov/_fi… ]

Reply

Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Facebook Friend Danno Hanks writes:

“It is often said “if you don’t like the law vote to change it.” but if you’re an ex-con you can’t do that. California, however, is an exception to that in that ex-cons can vote.

Reply

Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Diane Dimond Do they get to vote immediately after being released, Danno? Or do they wait for a period of time and then apply for reinstatement? /// Answer: Immediately their voting writes are reinstated.

Reply

Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Facebook Friend Drew Rutberg writes:

“It means Hillary will have a tougher time getting elected. Can you imagine the campaign stops if incarcerated people were allowed to vote? ” if elected I promise a TV in every cell and five packages of cigarettes a week to every inmate”. // READ MY LIPS Conjugal visits!!!! // I think it depends on the nature of the offensive(s) committed and the amount of time the released person has stayed law abiding. Within certain parameters I think the right should be returned. No murders, no child molesters, no drug dealers.”

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Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Facebook Friend Lyn Novosel writes:

“Great article Diane but not sure what to think to be honest.”

Reply

Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Facebook Friend Anna Lachowicz Zimmerman writes:

” Maine ex-cons can vote.”

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Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

DD replies: And, Anna Lachowicz Zimmermand, As the column indicated those who are behind bars in Maine can vote too. Convicts and ex-convicts vote in both Maine and Vermont.

Reply

Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Facebook Friend Lex Roberts writes:

“If they done their time, then yes they should be allowed to vote, after all they are starting a new life hopefully don’t break the law again, if they break the law a second time then they should lose their right to vote.”

Reply

Diane Dimond August 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Facebook Friend Ginnie Oleskewicz Schwartz writes:

“I think that they should be allowed to vote…especially if they made a mistake years ago and have lived a law abiding life since their release…”

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