In a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled "My Felon Americans: John Kerry and Hillary Clinton Want to Let Criminals Vote"
, the Journal kicked into the propaganda mode by wrongfully asserting:
The 14th Amendment specifically permits states to disfranchise citizens convicted of "participation in rebellion, or other crime."
The 14th Amendment does say:
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.
Section 2, of the 14th is about 130 words,and deals with a burning issue in 1866: how to "count" the citizens and voters in states that formerly were in rebellion to the Union for purpose of their representation in the Congress of the United States. The important thing it does is to declare that if some citizens are denied the right to vote for reasons other than they participated in the (Civil War ) rebellion the number of people in the state calculated for purposes of selecting the number of representatives shall be reduced by the same proportion as the number of Blacks disallowed from voting. There was a concern that Southern states would deny blacks the right to vote in the post-Civil War South. What is says any Southern state disenfranchises X amount of blacks will be penalized by a quid pro quo reduction in the same amount of citizens in the reapportionment count.
There was no question but that the Confederate states would be folded back into the Union, but how to do so was a matter of the most extreme delicacy. One of the huge issues was how you counted citizens. We know that slaves were originally counted as 3/5 of a person, but once they are declared to be citizens of the US and of their states, they must be counted as 1/1 person. But do you appoint representatives based on male citizens of voting age? OR do you head-count it based or total number of based on male and female who were of voting age(even though women didn't get the right to vote)?
In context, the 14th Amendment wasn't even about denying the right to vote to convicted felons it was about enfranchising black voters without the fear of being denied the vote. There is absolutely no language in the 14th Amendment that empowers individual states to pass laws denying convicted felons of the right to vote.
You have to grudgingly admire the bi-polar idiot/genius of the Republicans: They have extracted a single esoteric phrase ("except for participation in rebellion and other crimes") from the 14th Amendment passed to protect voting rights and on the basis of that 8 word passage, have transformed a voting rights law into a de facto voting suppression law, just as they have done with photo ID laws. When you live under the Stupidity Paradigm it emboldens the terrorists, if ask messy questions. Just close your eyes and trust the guys who marching us straigt toward the edge of the abyss.
If you read the Section 1. of the 14th Amendment you will discover the true intent of the law before the GOP authorized themselves to use it to keep blacks from voting:
Does that sound like a law intended to deny the right to vote to felons or expand the right to vote to include everone?
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Another "convenient fiction" courtesy of the GOP noise machine.
In the racially colorblind universe of Republican legal reasoning, the plain language of a law can be deconstructed to have any meaning. It's similar to the flat-out fiction by conservative fundamentalists that there is no language in the Constitution that separates church from state. Who cares if the very first sentence to the very first amendment to the Constitution says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. What part of that unambigous sentence do Republicans fail understand?
Since these convicted felon statutes passed by states rest on the quicksand foundation of mumbo jumbo legal reasoning, it's about time John Kerry and Hillary Clinton put an end to this nonsense by sponsoring a bill puts an end to the Republican's post-modern version Jim Crow laws.
Whatever policy we have about convicted felons voting, it should be uniform over all 50 states. We can't have some states refusing the franchise to convicted felons and others allowing convicted felons to vote.
The biggest problem with banning convicted felons from voting is there isn't an accurate list of convicted felons in any state. Felon lists are generated by private sector contractors
The Miami Herald wrote this about James Lee, president of DBT, the private contractor that was hired by the state of Florida to generate a felon's list for the 2000 presidential election:
On April 17 2001, James Lee testified, before the McKinney panel, that the state had given DBT the directive to add to the purge list people who matched at least 90% of a last name. DBT objected, knowing that this would produce a huge number of false positives (non-felons).
Lee went on saying that the state then ordered DBT to shift to an even lower threshold of 80% match, allowing also names to be reversed (thus a person named Thomas Clarence could be taken to be the same as Clarence Thomas). Besides this, middle initials were skipped, Jr. and Sr. suffixes dropped, and some nicknames and aliases were added to puff up the list.
"DBT told state officials", testified Lee, "that the rules for creating the [purge] list would mean a significant number of people who were not deceased, not registered in more than one county, or not a felon, would be included on the list. DBT made suggestions to reduce the numbers of eligible voters included on the list". According to Lee, to this suggestion the state told the company, "Forget about it". "
The people who worked on this (for DBT) are very adamant... they told them what would happen", said Lee. "The state expected the county supervisors to be the failsafe." Lee said his company will never again get involved in cleansing voting rolls. "We are not confident any of the methods used today can guarantee legal voters will not be wrongfully denied the right to vote", Lee told a group of Atlanta-area black lawmakers in March 2001.
I'm sorry if I see things differently from George and Jeb Bush, but if one innocent person is fraudulently denied the right to vote because of an inaccurate felon's list, that's one person too many. Meanwhile back at the ranch the Bush brothers, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are dreaming up more crackpot ideas to supress the vote, and dispatching Big Al Gonzalez the psycho-attorney to the law library find some precedent,any ol' bizarre precedent to keep even more poor people & non-combatant domestic enemies from voting.
In the 2004 presidential election Associated Press (10/17/04) wrote this about the Florida felon's list:
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ignored advice to throw out a flawed felon voter list before it went out to county election offices despite warnings from state officials, according to a published report Saturday.
In a May 4 e-mail obtained by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Florida Department of Law Enforcement computer expert Jeff Long told his boss that a Department of State computer expert had told him ``that yesterday they recommended to the Gov that they 'pull the plug' on the voter database.
The e-mail said state election officials ``weren't comfortable with the felon matching program they've got,'' but added, ``The Gov rejected their suggestion to pull the plug, so they're 'going live' with it this weekend.''
A software program matched data on felons with voter registration rolls to create the list of 48,000 names. Secretary of State Glenda Hood junked the database in July after acknowledging that 2,500 ex-felons on the list had had their voting rights restored.
Most were Democrats, and many were black. Hispanics, who often vote Republican in Florida, were almost entirely absent from the list due to a technical error (my emphasis)
Florida is one of the increasing number of states that does not automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons when they complete their sentences and probation. Purging felons from voter rolls has been a hot-button issue since the 2000 presidential election, and since then many citizens discovered at the polls they weren't allowed to vote since the passage of laws denying convicted felons of the right to vote.
The Seattle Times wrote this about Washington's felon list (3/17/2005):
The list of alleged felon voters compiled ... mistakenly includes people tried as juveniles who never lost their right to vote.
A spokeswoman for Rossi acknowledged last night that perhaps hundreds of the 1,135 people on the list are there improperly because of juvenile cases.
A partial check by The Seattle Times showed that 165 alleged felon voters in King County had only juvenile cases. The Times was able to check 462 names using a Washington State Patrol database.
An attorney for the Democratic Party said more than 200 juvenile cases were found among the King County names. "They should scrub their list for other errors," said attorney Jenny Durkan, a lawyer for the Democrats. "
This is a huge error." Durkan said Republican attorneys should apologize to the people erroneously listed as voting illegally and amend the list "so these people's names never have to go into an official court file."
Every state that has denied the vote to convicted felons has attempted to enforce the law with shoddy, poorly compiled lists of felons that often target minority voters.
Do we know that law is even equally enforced?
Is a John Smith" who votes in an affluent Republican precinct subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny as the
"John Smith" whose name comes up on a felon's list in an inner city black neighborhood? Under the law both John Smith" should be denied the vote, but it's unlikely that the John Smith in the Republican precinct will be challenged as being the felonious John Smith"on the list.
State laws restricting felons from voting should be scrapped because the technology is not available to generate fair and accurate felon lists. As long as felon lists are inaccurate, innocent people will be denied the right to vote because they have the bad luck of having the same name as a convicted felon. It may well be that felony lists have turned away more legally eligible voters, than felons. No study has ever been done on the impact of felony lists on denial of the vote to perfectly legal voters.
What is a convicted felon, anyway? Anyone caught with a marijuana cigarette 20 years ago may well be a convicted felon in the state of Florida in 2006. If you got into a brawl in 1977, and were convicted of aggravated assault you can't vote in the state of Florida. If you were convicted of rape and later exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence that felony conviction will not automatically disappear from your criminal record, so you are denied the right to vote in Florida.
In Missouri animal abuse is a class D felony. In most states a third conviction on drunk driving is a class D or class C felony, even though 20 years ago third time offenders were at most charged with a class A misdemeanor. So if you were drunk driver George Bush in the Seventies you are grandfathered out of the Class C felony and you're drunk driver George Bush in the Nineties you were a felon and automatically denied the right to vote. Sorry George, you're not even allowed to run for office because you're a drunken felon.
There is no language in the Constitution about denying the right to vote to convicted felons. Not even close.
Theoretically, federal law allows persons convicted of felonies in a United States district court to apply to have their record expunged after a certain period of time with a clean record. However, the Republicans in the U.S. Congress have refused to fund the federal agency mandated with handling the applications of convicted felons to have their record expunged. This means that, in practice, federal felons cannot have their records expunged. Another Republican slam-dunk on denying voting rights.
My own grandfather came to America after he was wrongfully accused of the felony of gun running for the Irish republican movement in the 1930s. He was a stow-away on a commercial freighter boat and was assisted and protected by Irish national deckhands on the ship. When he reached Ellis Island, expatriate Irish immigration officials expedited his illegal entry into the United States. We are no longer the land of opportunity if we deny voting rights to those who want a new start in life. My grandfather was lucky enough to get a second chance. In 2006 in America, he would have been detained as a terrorist and flown off to Egypt to be tortured by millitary intelligence specialists.
Comments are closed on this story.