Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Question of Fairness: Restore the Vote

"I done things I'm not proud of, and I'm different now; I'm a man," he said outside the hall. "But I can't go back and change what I did." Mr. McGowan said he doubts his rights will be restored in time. If he can, he will vote for Sen. Barack Obama. "I like Hillary; Hillary is all right, but Barack, Barack is something different," he said.

An issue that seems to be getting more and more traction in the news is felony reenfranchisement. Yesterday, another editorial in the Wall Street Journal of all papers argues felons case. Florida recently restored voting rights to felons. Charlie Crist went against the Republican machine in Florida, but the process has been slow and of course the 2008 election looms.

Florida's clemency board has restored voting rights to nearly 75,000 residents. But nearly 96,000 requests are pending, according to information through March 20. Activists say there might be an additional 400,000 people who have been rejected without explanation, making it impossible for them to be reinstated.

The issue will only gain more traction as the fall comes into focus. But, rest assured no state house will do anything this year to move felons vote in their respective states, but this does not underscore the fact that "5.3 million U.S. citizens unable to vote because of felony convictions -- including four million people who are no longer in prison, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law."

Maine and Vermont are the only states that allow felons to vote while incarcerated. Thirteen others and the District of Columbia allow inmates to regain the right to vote after their release, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington advocacy group. Other states limit voting based on factors including the severity of a crime, the completion of probation and the payment of fines.

This reenfranchisement is a question of fairness, of a society that expects people to pay their debt to society and then improve, do not move back into crime. But, what of a society that says, sorry - yes, you have paid your debt to society, but you still cannot vote, you are not a citizen, you are not a man. What of a society when most of those men (of course some women) are people of color, mostly black, is there something being said? What of these laws, these disenfranchisement laws come from the post slavery south that instead of denying blacks the right to vote outright, they sought laws on the books that those with a criminal record can't vote, then they arrested former slaves.

We need to end felony disenfranchisement, once and for all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those Maine people sure are progressive, aren't they?