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This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades

Iowa is one of four states that requires felons who have finished their sentences to appeal directly to the governor if they want their voting rights restored. As Nicole Flatow at Think Progress points out, when Democrat Tom Vilsack was governor, he issued an executive order automatically restoring felons' voting rights when they completed their sentences. But Republican Gov. Terry Branstad reversed that ruling. As a consequence only 12 of the 8,000 felons who have finished their sentences have had their voting rights restored.

The way the law works now is confusing both to ex-convicts and public officials.
For the 2012 election, at least a dozen citizens who weren't felons were included on a list of people barred from voting and at least three offenders were mistakenly removed from the list.

As a result of a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court, that situation may be headed for a slight change that could enfranchise some felons.

The case involved Anthony Bisignano, a state Senate candidate whose opponent sought to have disqualified on the grounds that Iowans who have committed an "infamous crime" cannot run for public office. Those who have committed "infamous crimes" are also barred from voting unless the governor proves merciful.

Without making a distinction between misdemeanors and felonies, the Iowa Supreme Court has previously categorized an "infamous crime" as one that carries the possibility of time in the penitentiary. Bisignano's crime was a second offense of drunk driving, which he said should not be considered "infamous." Under the law, that offense is an "aggravated misdemeanor," which can be punished with time in the slam. But the justices this time found the "infamous" label too harsh for that particular crime and reaffirmed the lower court's decision saying Bisignano should not be disqualified.

But they went further, noting at length that the Court had previously considered the meaning of "infamous crime" in a number of cases. The justices determined that the Supreme Court had wrongly decided previous cases and mere punishment by prison time should not be the determining factor as to whether a crime is "infamous." The upshot: Many misdemeanor offenders and some felons now may not have to depend on gubernatorial clemency to get their voting rights restored.

But the ruling leaves behind a tangled web since, other than Bisignano's particular offense, no bright line was drawn between what is and what is not an "infamous crime." Tom Vilsack had the right idea. Returning to that approach would make a lot more sense, be a lot more fair and present no danger to the public or the electoral process. The system was broken, Vilsack fixed it, and Branstad rebroke it.

More on the war on voting can be found below the orange butterfly ballot.

McAuliffe accelerating restoration of felons' voting rights: For several years, Virginia has been working to make it easier and quicker for violent felons as well as some others who have finished their sentences to get their voting rights restored. On April 21, thanks to the efforts of Democratic Gov. Terry McAufliffe, some new rules will go into effect that makes progress in that direction.

Under state law, there is a long list of crimes that require those convicted of committing them to wait five years before they can appeal to get their voting right back after their sentences have been served, fines paid and restitution. Now the felons on that list will only have to wait three years instead of five to appeal. And those with drug offenses will no longer be on the list of those who have to wait.

That's an improvement but it still falls short of the automatic restoration that would make a lot more sense. But reformers have failed to persuade Virginia voters of the wisdom of the automatic re-enfranchisement. Virginia is one of eight states that mandate permanent loss of voting rights for some felons unless they successfully appeal to the governor. McAuliffe has granted restoration to about 800 felons since coming in office in January. All told, the Sentencing Project estimates that about 350,000 Virginians have been disenfranchised for felony offenses.

Media Matters pokes holes in right-wing media lies on voting rights: Among those myths—Voter Fraud Is Real And Widespread, New Voter ID Laws Uphold The Integrity Of The Election Process, Voter ID Laws Don't Affect Turnout, There's Proof Of Extensive Double-Voting In Recent Elections. Media Matters' Meagan Hatcher-Mays debunks all these myths extensively.

Gov. Cuomo signs up New York as part of National Popular Vote: The governor's signature on legislation committing to an interstate compact that could weaken the skewing impact of the Electoral College if enough other states join.

Under the compact, states agree to give all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide. The compact does not take effect until states with a total of 270 electoral votes have signed it. That's 61 percent of the votes it takes to win the presidency.

So far, adding in New York's 29 votes, 11 jurisdictions totaling 165 electoral have signed the compact: California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

If and when states with the additional 105 votes have signed the compact, the United States will hold its first election in which all citizens' votes in those states will count equally.

Promised bipartisan fix of Voting Rights Act stalled in Congress: Surprise. Legislation to update procedures that were demolished by the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County v. Holder were introduced earlier this year. And, says Cameron Joseph at The Hill, the bill would probably pass both Senate and House if it were brought up for a vote even though many members on both sides of the aisle aren't completely happy about it.

Some liberal Democrats, for instance, don't like the fact that nine states were covered under the overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act and only four would be under the new legislation.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the Wisconsin Republican who has pushed the post-Shelby revisions, was a strong backer of the 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act and introduced the latest legislation in the House, thinks the bill will pass by the end of the year. It is, however, as he acknowledges in the hands of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who has said he backs an amended VRA, but has not yet endorsed the Sensenbrenner legislation.

ACLU sues Arkansas over photo voter ID law. At the Arkansas Blog at Arkansas Times, Leslie Newell Peacock writes:

To vote, an Arkansas citizen must now be in possession of a I.D. card issued by the federal government, the state or an accredited postsecondary school in Arkansas. Don't have a car? No longer driving? Aren't in the military? Aren't in school? Not a world traveler equipped with a passport? Don't work for the state? Maybe your nursing home director will go to the trouble of getting a document attesting that you are who you are. (Or maybe not.) Or maybe you can get a friend to haul you over to a motor vehicle department to get a photo I.D., or you can come up with bus fare after you figure out where to go. Have a religious objection to being photographed? Get an affidavit and take it to the County Board of Election Commissioners.
Here's the ACLU brief.

Why putting photos on Social Security cards won't save voting rights: Michael Hiltzik's take on Andrew Young's idea.

Zephyr Teachout tells us the answer is "quite a lot." But that's giving Roberts credit for being gullible instead of malign.

Could America Become a Banana Republic?. Norm Ornstein's take on the McCutcheon decision.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes Norm, the US is a Banana Republic (7+ / 0-)
    More significant, in any case, were Roberts's sweeping conclusions about corruption and the appearance of corruption in the decision. The chief justice took the shaky conclusion reached by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Citizens United decision—that money given "independently" of campaigns could not involve corruption or its appearance—and applied it in an even more comprehensive fashion to money given directly to candidates and campaigns. Thanks to McCutcheon, only quid pro quo corruption is sufficient to trigger any restrictions on campaign contributions—meaning, direct bribery of the Abscam or American Hustle variety, presumably captured on videotape for the world to see. The appearance of corruption? Forget about it. Restrictions on elected officials soliciting big money? Forget about them, too.

    To anyone who has actually been around the lawmaking process or the political process more generally, this is mind-boggling. It makes legal what has for generations been illegal or at least immoral. It returns lawmaking to the kind of favor-trading bazaar that was common in the Gilded Age.

    shopping

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:15:50 AM PDT

  •  Thanks MB (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, cocinero, MadGeorgiaDem, Simplify

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:18:00 AM PDT

  •  The Religious Right always forgets this one: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cocinero, MadGeorgiaDem

    Judge NOT--lest ye be judged and found WANTING.

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:18:22 AM PDT

  •  Anyone else notice that not a (5+ / 0-)

    single GOP state has signed on to the Electoral Vote compact? I suspect they won't either since the GOP relies on cheating to win presidential elections these days.

    Although I like the idea of the compact giving the electoral votes to the national popular vote winner, I'd still prefer to do away with the Electoral College altogether, but I'll take what I can get to avoid another 2000 election.

    Guns are never the principal in the commission of a crime, but they are usually an accomplice

    by MadGeorgiaDem on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:22:39 AM PDT

    •  The Electoral College helps Democrats (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      se portland

      Nevada and New Mexico are almost out of reach for Repubs. Colorado and Virginia are still close, but they're trending our way too. That leaves the GOP with only very narrow paths to victory, given that they're unelectable in vast swarms of the country.

      I think the Electoral College is worth keeping. There will not be another 2000 election, and I think it's good to spotlight smaller states in addition to larger ones. Not to mention that a recount in 51 states would be an absolute nightmare if there was an extremely close election.

      •  Four presidents have been elected (6+ / 0-)

        with fewer votes than their opponent's. Three of those elections were won by Republicans.

        “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

        by se portland on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:22:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And the GOP clearly cheated in two of those: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          se portland, Eric Nelson, Ahianne

          1876 and 2000. The notion that the EC helps Democrats is simply not correct.

          Samuel Tilden was short of victory by one electoral vote, but four states, three of them in the former Confederacy, turned in two sets of returns. An electoral commission was established, which voted along party lines, and awarded all of the disputed electors to Hayes. If memory serves, the Oregon situation was worked out before the commission met. Of course, we all know what happened in Florida.

          Guns are never the principal in the commission of a crime, but they are usually an accomplice

          by MadGeorgiaDem on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 11:16:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It is still pending AZ and OK (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, MadGeorgiaDem

      Currently there six states considering the law. The total EV would added up to another 71 EVs. Surprisingly it is supported by 60% of Republicans

      Arizona    11
      Connecticut    7
      Michigan    16
      Minnesota    10
      Oklahoma    7    2014
       Pennsylvania    20    2013–14

      “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

      by se portland on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:13:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Honestly its just another false solution.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Australian2, AR2

      Until we actually get to choose a potential President that isn't 'vetted' by the financial power structure we are just playing the same game of head they win and tails we lose.

      It doesn't matter how you choose to flip that coin when it still only has the two sides they give us.

      Join the DeRevolution: We are not trying to take the country, we are trying to take the country back. Get the money out of politics with public financed campaigns so 'Of the People, By the People and For the People' rings true again.

      by fToRrEeEsSt on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:27:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The National Popular Vote (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadGeorgiaDem, bananapouch1, LtPowers

    is a disaster waiting to happen.  Remember Florida in 2000?  That recount mess would have been repeated in 51 places if the popular vote was ever that close.

    "Unrestricted immigration is a dangerous thing -- look at what happened to the Iroquois." Garrison Keillor

    by Spider Stumbled on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:25:56 AM PDT

  •  If we don't let people vote for "infamous crimes," (6+ / 0-)

    then I have a list:

    George H.W. Bush
    Donald Rumsfeld
    John Yoo
    Charles and David Koch
    Massey Energy (hey, corporations are people)
    Duke Energy
    BP Petroleum
    Chris Christie
     . . .

    Good thing probably I'm not the King.

    Think about the baby Jesus. Up in that tower, letting His hair down so that the three wise men could climb up and spin the dreidle and see if there's six more weeks of winter. -- Will and Grace

    by Rikon Snow on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:26:16 AM PDT

  •  Replace Branstad (5+ / 0-)

    The easiest way to allow felons to vote in Iowa, after they have completed their sentences, would be to vote Branstad out in November and replace him with Iowa Senator Jack Hatch. Branstad's approval has been dropping as a result of a series of scandals.

    •  I miss Vilsack (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rikon Snow

      He was the only governor of my state that I actually approved of.  I liked his style.  He ran a term, then tried for a presidential bid.  The bid was canceled very early, shortly after he and his team realized there was no way they could get enough funds to run against endorsed and established candidates.  I didn't like losing him as a governor, but having him as president would have been a pretty good consolation.  His successor, Chet Culver, ran against Branstad in the next election.  I'm not sure who the third party candidate was, but I voted for him.  Neither of the major party schmucks deserved my vote, and I really hope those two weren't the best IA has to offer.

      Branstad's son was drunk driving at 16, killing 3 people I think.  In his early twenties he was caught with drug paraphernalia.  I wonder if he's allowed to vote (snark).

      •  Be careful about making any comment that (0+ / 0-)

        References not supporting the Democratic candidate.  There is a purity test.

        Think about the baby Jesus. Up in that tower, letting His hair down so that the three wise men could climb up and spin the dreidle and see if there's six more weeks of winter. -- Will and Grace

        by Rikon Snow on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 11:36:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  isn't it weird? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AR2, Simplify, Eric Nelson

    I really am baffled at the idea of taking away the voting rights of felons, even those serving time. I mean, seriously, if you're a true sociopath are you really going to feel punished by not being allowed to perform your civic duty? Seriously? So it's not penal. And it certainly has no correctional value, in fact one could argue just the opposite -- allowing, even actively encouraging, criminals to vote could actually would actually help rehabilitate them.

    The only other possible reason is that it somehow "protects" us. Protects us from what, though? People who might be likely to disagree with us? We live in a world where we're surrounded by people who, mysteriously, disagree with us. Most people (including yours truly and probably you, dear reader) explain this bizarre circumstance by saying to themselves that the ones who disagree with them are a) stupid b) crazy or c) evil. So it's no wonder that throughout the history of American democracy, those who could vote have always been reluctant to enfranchise those who might fall into one of those categories. Take any group of people -- slaves, the poor, women, people under 18 -- who at some point weren't allowed to vote, and you really don't need to scratch very deep to find attitudes about some sort of mental or moral deficiency. And, it should be obvious to anyone that a democracy in which those who don't agree with us aren't allowed to vote is no democracy at all.

    Besides: who better to identify a truly crooked politician than a real criminal?

  •  A position that I suspect will be unpopular here: (0+ / 0-)

    I oppose the National Popular Vote compact, for one simple reason: It incentivises Republican vote suppression in every State, not "only" battleground or mildly-leaning States.

    Consider: Assume that a Republican wins the governorship of Massachusetts or Connecticut (it's happened, and recently, too!). They then have the ability to push the legislature into enacting a "moderate" voter-ID or other suppressive law. Not enough to change the way those States vote at the Presidential level...but enough to take thousands or tens of thousands of votes away from the Democratic candidate each election.

    Likewise - and far more likely - the governments of deep-red States (which presently have little reason to suppress the vote, since they're all but guaranteed victory anyway) will do anything and everything in their power to ensure that African-Americans never get within cooee of a ballot box, that poorer urban folks or ex-convicts or other nonwhite people (all of whom lean Democratic) cannot exercise their franchise.

    Why will this happen under a NPV system? Because it will remove votes from the Democratic candidate.

    Without strong and rigorously-enforced safeguards of voting rights, NPV opens the door to much larger-scale GOP election shenanigans. It is not a panacea for the problems affecting US democracy.

    "Violence never requires translation, but it often causes deafness." - Bareesh the Hutt.

    by Australian2 on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:56:57 AM PDT

    •  That's a prerequisite for a democracy: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, Eric Nelson
      strong and rigorously-enforced safeguards of voting rights
      Giving up on that is just plain giving up on the whole idea of democracy, national popular vote or no.

      Now if only we, like Australia, were to require attendance at the polls...

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 11:13:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The National Popular Vote interstate compact (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    Makes me queasy.  It feels like trying to do an end-around of the Constitution to change something that should be addressed through the amendment process.  It just doesn't feel right to me.

    You can say that it is technically legal but so was FDR's court-packing plan and that makes me significantly less queasy.

  •  republican are inviting a major backfiring that.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    ..they can't, not just won't, but actually can't stop.

     It seems  to me that usually in the not too distant past the GOP leadership could step back use some strategy and avoid getting blamed for what they're up to. Not any more it. They're stuck on a bad road
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    Word does seem to be getting out; the real voter fraud is the republican party. This video from the posted Media Matters link shows how ridiculous their claims are. Even for a republican.

    With good pushback happening on voting rights nationally despite the RWNJ Scotus

    As a result of a ruling (pdf) by the Iowa Supreme Court, that situation may be headed for a slight change that could enfranchise some felons.
    [...]
    The justices determined that the Supreme Court had wrongly decided previous cases and mere punishment by prison time should not be the determining factor as to whether a crime is "infamous." The upshot: Many misdemeanor offenders and some felons now may not have to depend on gubernatorial clemency to get their voting rights restored.

     - emphasis added

    And in Virginia:
    Now the felons on that list will only have to wait three years instead of five to appeal. And those with drug offenses will no longer be on the list of those who have to wait.

    That's an improvement but it still falls short of the automatic restoration that would make a lot more sense.

    So with the VRA reparations stalled and a growing number of people believing the obstructionist republicans to blame despite the non-stop doom and gloom drilled in by the MSM a few months ago it looks like things are looking a bit less gloomy for Dems in the courts. Even a shift in tone from some of the MSM  

    Also I'm hoping the latest version of a NPV is as good as Kos was calling for 2 years ago and that it's a fair deal, because last go round their were some bad provisions in the deal. Because Cuomo does some good things and talks about it a lot, then turns around and does the bidding of the Wall Street 1%ers et al. behind the scene

    In Arkansas Leslie Newell Peacock writes:

    To vote, an Arkansas citizen must now be in possession of a I.D. card issued by the federal government, the state..
    ..with  the ACLU suing, it seems to me that people especially in the more red states will look at this SS card identity BS as "Big government intervention", which is exactly what the republican party is up to including on a whole range of issues including the war on women rights.

     The GOP agenda is practically designed to backfire, and they seem helpless to control themselves.

    Reasonable people, even republicans won't put up with this this extremism

    Thx MB

  •  Not all voters have equal protection under the law (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    Some states are robbing people of their right to vote. Many people who could vote in some states are not allowed to vote in other states.

    The National popular vote idea could give additional rewards and incentives for voter supression.

  •  strict voter ID laws (0+ / 0-)

    The only way I'd ever be in favor of these draconian voter ID laws would be if there were a 100% refundable tax credit equal to the cost of obtaining such documents.

    I'd like to watch the Rebublicans squirm their way out of that.

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