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This diary was cross-posted at MN Progressive Project, and has been edited to make it comprehensible to non-Minnesota readers. Different states have different laws on restoring former felons' voting rights. In some states, a significant minority of those otherwise eligible to vote has been disenfranchised.

Sen. Scott Newman, voting rights opponentAccording to Minnesota Public Radio, Republicans, or rather, one specific Republican, was able to prevent former felons being informed of when their voting rights are restored.

State legislators decided to strip the requirement to provide written notification to felons about their voting eligibility in response to objections from State Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson.

Newman, the Senate author of last year's voter ID constitutional amendment [it was defeated], argued that judges and probation officers could notify felons more easily and at less cost than the secretary of state. He also said he didn't think it was appropriate to give special treatment to felons.

Presumably Newman had this effect because he had the other Republicans going along, so maybe it should be "Republicans" plural. The Republicans effectively had a veto on election law changes because Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton insisted all election law changes be bi-partisan (the Democrats have a majority in both houses of the legislature). The case for requiring bi-partisanship is defensible: imposing changes through one party makes them less likely to be accepted as legitimate. On the other hand, necessary changes can be stopped for partisan reasons too, as happened here.

The problem is some former felons are voting or registering to vote before their rights are restored. Thinking back to the debate over photo ID requirements for voting, the only real problem discovered, pretty close to 100% of all real illegal voting, was former felons whose rights hadn't been restored. Former felons are allowed to vote once they're done with all parole and probation, colloquially referred to as "off-paper". It might sound straightforward, but the fact so many get confused and get it wrong suggests there are nuances that make it confusing. Also keep in mind we're considering only those trying to vote even though they shouldn't. Some unknown number avoid voting even though they should, because they wrongly think they can't. Some states prohibit former felons from voting ever again, and there's a widespread misconception that this is the law everywhere. Everyone who doorknocks eventually comes across former felons who wrongly think they can't vote, so while we can't know the number, we know it's more than zero.

Funny thing, but I can't help noticing Republicans want to play up illegal voting when it comes to clinging to some shred of reality to support their belief Democrats in though massive voter fraud, yet block all attempts to fix the problem. The bogus arguments from Sen. Newman illustrate the point.

Newman, the Senate author of last year's voter ID constitutional amendment [italics mine], argued that judges and probation officers could notify felons more easily and at less cost than the secretary of state. He also said he didn't think it was appropriate to give special treatment to felons.

"We do not provide special notice for students, for instance, who come in from out of state," Newman said. "We don't provide special notice to, say, students who live in one community, move to another community for purposes of going to school. We don't provide special notice to someone who turns 18 and is now eligible to vote."

So we shouldn't tell people when they can vote because there might be a cheaper way to do it --- which we also aren't going to do. Maybe parole and probation officers could notify former felons already, but clearly they don't, for whatever reason. Seeing the system has broken down somewhere and is easily fixed, clearly we should ... leave it broken.

By the way, could Sen. Newman explain what "special notice" means? The information about students voting can be broadly disseminated because they know if they're living at home or where they attend school. Former felons are in individual circumstances which clearly aren't clear, or so many wouldn't be guessing wrong. Their situation is individual, so the notification has to be individual too. Then again, Republicans generally oppose student voting too, and take measures to prevent students from voting where Republicans have control, so maybe to Newman his argument makes sense.

"I don't think I ever singled out or specified one particular group of voters as the reason for voter ID," he said. "Felons voting is simply one of the problems I believe exists."
We have to love that "I believe exists". Never mind the utter lack of evidence. He believes it, and that's all that matters. But assume there are multiple problems: apparently, since former felon voting isn't the only problem, it shouldn't be fixed. I guess we'd have to live in Newman's world for that to makes sense.

If we really wanted to fix the problem of letting former felons know if they can vote, we would do what the smart states so, at least the states smart on this one issue. Set a standard where if you're in jail, you can't vote. If you're out, you can. If anyone is confused, the cell door or lack thereof blocking your trip to the polls should clear up the confusion.

Yet we won't fix the problem. Well, Republicans won't. Why? Don't say photo ID would have fixed it, because it wouldn't. Someone on parole or probation can still have a valid drivers license, and someone whose rights have been restored might not have any acceptable photo ID, so photo ID wouldn't fix it. So this isn't about photo ID. Could it be about the Republican belief illegal votes by former felons let Al Franken "steal" the 2008 election? There weren't enough illegal votes to flip even that narrow result, but the claim does betray the assumption that former felons all vote Democratic. All of them, really? Most is plausible. Former felons presumably can figure out like everyone else targeted by Republicans that Democrats try to protect their voting rights while Republicans try to take them away. That might make them inclined to vote Democratic.

So the right to vote is contingent on voting Republican? Somehow, I get the feeling that's really what this is all about.

Originally posted to ericf on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 09:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Every adult citizen should have their right... (16+ / 0-) vote respected, whether they are in or out of prison.

    Stop the NRA and the NSA
    Repeal the Patriot Act and the 2nd Amendment

    by dream weaver on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 10:21:04 PM PDT

  •  I presume those same felons... (7+ / 0-)

    can own a gun.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by richardak on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 10:35:06 PM PDT

  •  Eugene Debs was disenfranchised for life in 1918. (8+ / 0-)
    Debs was sentenced on November 18, 1918, to ten years in prison. He was also disenfranchised for life. Debs presented what has been called his best-remembered statement at his sentencing hearing:

    "Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

    However, in 1920, Eugene Debs ran for President from his prison cell, receiving nearly a million votes.
    Debs ran for president in the 1920 election while in prison in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. He received 913,664 write-in votes (3.4%),[40] slightly less than he had won in 1912, when he received 6%, the highest number of votes for a Socialist Party presidential candidate in the U.S.[4][41] His time in prison also inspired Debs to write a series of columns deeply critical of the prison system, which appeared in sanitized form in the Bell Syndicate and appeared in his only book, Walls and Bars, with several added chapters. It was published posthumously.

    While Debs was qualified to run for and serve as President of the USA, he was not allowed to even cast a ballot for himself.

    So my question to those who don't believe in voting rights is this: Why should the qualifications for voting be more stringent than the qualifications for actually running for and serving as President of the USA?

    Stop the NRA and the NSA
    Repeal the Patriot Act and the 2nd Amendment

    by dream weaver on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 10:39:03 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary. (7+ / 0-)

    The way some Republicans respond to this issue would suggest that none of them have ever been imprisoned and so would never have to worry about regaining their citizenship rights.  

    Being the single intellectual in a village of 1,100 souls ain't much fun, especially when 1,099 of those don't think you're all that smart.--Lucy Marsden

    by Miniaussiefan on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 04:36:46 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary. There a site where (6+ / 0-)

    felons can go to find out what the laws are in their state.  This site discusses every humane issue.

  •  GOP feel so good about ignorance, they spread it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution, dagnome
    •  Yup, and English has it wrong in saying ignorance (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ColoTim, dagnome

      is bliss.  When it comes to the brand of ignorance shown by Republicans, Spanish is more on target with: la ignorancia es atrevida (ignorance is bold).  Those Teapublicans are so proud of their ignorance that they are emboldened to keep doing what is bad for the Country, bad for their communities and even bad for themselves - it is all about serving the corporate master that used their ignorance to get richer.

    •  They mandate it. (0+ / 0-)

      They require, if they can get away with it, time spent on teaching crap like Intelligent Design, which, because time is spent on that rather than actual science, makes the students dumber than those in other districts who actually study science.

      And home-schoolers are usually taught by those who won't accept even what standards exist in public schools.  I know there are exceptions, but I'd guess the vast majority of home schooling is done for religious and other biased reasons.

  •  But you can be damn sure (3+ / 0-)

    That they can get a gun, anywhere, anytime, anyhow.

    Where is our universal right to vote?

  •  Again, no Democratic leadership on this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ericf, ColoTim


    Minnesota is one of a few Blue states that still has probationer and parolee disenfranchisement.  Here's a clue for Dayton and the Minnesota legislature: repeal the Minnesota probationer and parolee disenfranchisement law, rather than assume or passively conform to claims of its legitimacy.  In private Republicans don't actually believe that it's morally legitimate, either.  Idiots, your Midwestern niceness is being played by some assholes- and think that it's best to play along.  

    Repeal the law and Voila, all the notification problems and excessive prosecution problems vanish.  Along with their costs and the waste of time arguing about them and notifying the affected that they're second class citizens.

    People will be vocal assholes about keeping felony disenfranchisement laws in place.  Once the laws are repealed, however, they don't really care.  There's no state where a repeal of these laws can be tied to any significant effects at the ballot box.

    At a minimum the DFL or national Democratic organizations should include clear basic explanations of Minnesota law as concerns people with felony convictions and voting in their mass mailings to Minnesota addresses.

    But in the Age of Obama felons' rights have been even lower priority than gay rights in the upper tiers of the Party, and beyond some lip service during the 2008 election campaign there's been avoidance- I can't recall a public mention during the 2012 campaign.  And the long standing, ongoing, in-your-face national travesty of Florida's lifetime felony disenfranchisement...when was the last time you heard about that from an elected Democrat?

    •  Good news and bad news (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      killjoy, Ahianne

      The bad news is even pretty progressive legislators hadn't thought much about this issue, though Democrats did go for requiring that former felons be directly informed of their voting rights. The good news is "ban the box" passed. That law prohibits employers from asking applicants about criminal records on job applications. They can ask, but only at the interview stage. So the frame of helping former felons integrate back into society is established. Voting rights are still too much for Republicans and setting the standard to in-jail/out-of-jail won't happen while they have a veto, but Democrats can be convinced. We just have to convince them it's OK to make a voting reform on a party-line vote. Right now, the governor insists on bi-partisanship.

  •  Well, here is a novel idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Let everyone vote. If you can fill out a voter registration card, you get to vote. Here's the catch: your first three votes are advisory only, they don't count.  And if you miss two elections in a row, the next one you vote in doesn't count.

    So, a five year old can register if she can write her name. If her parents take her to the polls faithfully every election while she grows up, her votes start to matter when she is around 18. If she is unusually precocious and can fill out the voter registration card when she is two years old, then her votes begin to count when she is 14 (remember, unusually precocious...)

    Someone enters the country, they vote. If they stay long enough, their vote counts. So, basically after 12 years of participating in our democracy, they become citizens.

    Some one gets tossed in the slammer, misses a couple of elections, they have to vote at least once, then their full franchise is restored the next time they go to the polls.

    And, if you don't care enough to get your butt down to the polls, then your vote doesn't count until you finally do show up consistently.

    This could be implemented on every level: state, county, school board, national and so on. Might adjust the number of votes by the jurisdictional level (may only require one or zero city elections before the next one counts).

    Yes, I know, doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of becoming the law of the land.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 01:42:33 PM PDT

    •  Hoo boy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      And if you miss two elections in a row, the next one you vote in doesn't count.
      Republicans would be scheduling separate elections for dog-catcher.

      "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

      by nosleep4u on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 12:53:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The idea is to track jursidictions (0+ / 0-)

        Missing a vote in your local dog catcher's race will only affect your franchise in the next local dog catcher's race, or perhaps the next municipal race. Miss two state elections, your next state election is advisory only, but your federal vote still counts.

        Sorry that wasn't clear.

        Part of the idea is to encourage people to get to the polls. They can't just show up when things are interesting or scandalous. If people sit out elections because they think none of the candidates are worth voting for, they can't immediately jump back in just because they get all riled up about some issue.

        Might encourage a different mind set about politics.

        Like I said: no chance in hell...

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 03:01:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Once again, Republican politicians make my (3+ / 0-)

    stomach heave, with a few spasms left over for those who vote for them.  

    I try not to brag about Canada, but a few years ago our Supreme Court decided that felons who are still imprisoned have a constitutional right to vote.   We haven't had a run on hand baskets despite that decision.  :)

    We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

    by Observerinvancouver on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 01:59:50 PM PDT

  •  If a felon in a state where he can vote moves (0+ / 0-)

    to a state where a former felon cannot vote, can they still vote based off where their sentence was served?

  •  Headline is inaccurate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Once convicted of a felony, you're a felon for life. No such thing a a "former felon".

  •  Dayton's (0+ / 0-)

    a pussy.  Run the Republicans over like you were driving a Zamboni.

  •  Republicans don't want former felons voting. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, nosleep4u

    They want current felons in public office.

    Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a smile on a poor child's face.

    by Troubadour on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 08:09:15 PM PDT

  •  The whole "felons voting thing" fell short (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, DefendOurConstitution

    Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman investigated their claims(they clamed that over 1000 felons voted in the 2008 election):

    2010 Election Violation Investigation Results
    470, 477—Number of Hennepin County Residents who voted in the election.
    35—Number of suspected felons who voted sent over by Hennepin County Elections Office.
    141—Number of suspected felons who voted forwarded by Minnesota Majority.
    176--Total number possible ineligible voters to investigate.
    11—Number of felons charged with voting before their civil liberties were restored (Six from the list supplied by elections office, five from Minnesota Majority)
    1—number of people charged with double voting.

    2008 Election Violation Investigation Results
    665,485—Number of Hennepin County Residents who voted in the election.
    21—Number of suspected felons who voted sent over by elections office.
    451—Number of suspected felons who voted forwarded by Mn. Majority
    472—Total number of possible ineligible voters to investigate
    38—Number of cases charged against ineligible felons who voted.

    Some people have short memories

    by lenzy1000 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 08:44:12 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for the numbers (3+ / 0-)

      They might be reduced more, if not all charged were convicted. If we assume they were, not a safe assumption but let's go with it, and and if the numbers in Hennepin County are proportional to the state average, and Hennepin County is about 1/4 of the state's population, that's 152 felons voting before their rights were restored. If, as Republicans assume, all former felons voted for AL Franken, that still isn't enough to account for Franken's margin of victory.

      If we further assume Republicans will ignore the numbers and insist the election was stolen ... never mind. We don't have to merely assume that.

  •  Criminals vote Republican anyway (0+ / 0-)

    So they're shooting themselves in the foot (again).

    Mind you, it's still wrong, but I'm laughing just a little.

    My day job involves visiting prisoners.  We don't always talk politics, but when we do, the inmates express values typical of the Republican base.  They hate dusky-skinned races, they hate women, they hate "fags", they hate Obama, and they think they would benefit under a fascist militaristic state in which they would be allowed to benefit themselves by being free to beat up their perceived "inferiors".  They even hate "liberal" welfare policies, because they cannot use them as resources because of their criminal records.

    Mind you, I live in one corner of America, a largely white, largely rural region where the drug of choice is meth, so this is hardly a scientific survey.  But still.

    Cover me, Melvert! I gotta leave the Sovrin Independent Free Market Collective of Fortress Libertopia to go get our disability checks!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 07:09:34 PM PDT

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