Felony Disenfranchisement

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Did You Know Nearly Six Million Americans Are Denied Voting Rights Because of Felonies?, on ProCon.org

Did you know nearly six million Americans are denied voting rights because of felonies, as of 2010? Read the details on felonvoting.procon.org, part of the ProCon.org family.

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org over the next several weeks, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed.

Read last week's ProCon.org "Did You Know" Chronicle blurb here.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

Chronicle AM -- April 23, 2014

There's news on the marijuana legalization initiative front, decrim dies in New Hampshire, pot sentencing reform dies in Alabama, Illinois patients can keep their guns, drugged driving and reproductive rights make news, too. And more. Let's get to it:

Former drug offenders will have their voting rights restored in Virginia, thanks to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Legalization Vote Pushed Back to November. A ballot initiative that could make Alaska the third US state to legalize recreational marijuana will go before voters in a general election in November rather than in August as previously scheduled, officials said on Monday. Alaska ballot initiatives typically go before voters in primary elections. But a lengthier-than-normal state legislative session this year forced the change because, under state rules, initiatives must go to voters no less than 120 days after the end of a session.

New Approach Oregon Legalization Initiative Gets Another Big Bucks Donation. The Drug Policy Action Network, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, has given $100,000 to the New Approach Oregon legalization initiative campaign. That's the second $100,000 in a week for the initiative, which has just commenced its signature-gathering phase.

Total Marijuana Ban Initiative Proposed in Montana. A Billings businessman has proposed an initiative for the November 2014 ballot that effectively would ban the possession, use, cultivation, trafficking and transportation of marijuana in Montana. Steve Zabawa submitted the measure last week. If approved, it would change state law to say that any drug listed on Schedule 1 of the Federal Controlled Substances Act "may not be legally possessed, received, transferred, manufactured, cultivated, trafficked, transported or used in Montana."

No Decriminalization for New Hampshire This Year. Criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana will not change, after the Senate refused to consider a House-passed bill. Under House Bill 1625, the penalty for having an ounce or less of marijuana or hashish would have been the same as a traffic ticket, and it would have lowered the penalties for growing less than six marijuana plants. The bill passed the House by a better than two-to-one margin, but the Senate refused to accept the bill. It had killed a nearly identical bill last session.

Louisiana to Retain Harsh Marijuana Penalties. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to kill a bill that would reduce the state's marijuana penalties, some of the harshest in the country. Senate Bill 323 would have made simple possession a misdemeanor punishable by no more than six months in jail. Under current law, repeat pot possession offenders can be jailed for up to 20 years. The measure failed on a 4-3 vote.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Limited CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A bill to allow patients suffering from seizures or severe pain to use high CBD cannabis oil has passed the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 843 passed the committee 15-3 and now heads for a House floor vote.

Wisconsin Governor Signs Limited CBD Medical Marijuana Bill. Gov. Scott Walker (R) last week signed into law Assembly Bill 726, which allows the use of CBD cannabis oil to treat severe seizures in children.

Illinois Medical Marijuana Patients Can Keep Their Guns. Illinois regulators finalizing the state's conditions for medical marijuana have removed a proposed rule that would have barred legal gun owners from becoming cannabis-using patients. Some patients had said they would rather continue to use marijuana illegally rather than give up their firearms owners ID cards. The wording drew numerous complaints in public comments from gun owners who hoped to apply for medical cannabis cards. Many said their rights were being trampled.

Drugged Driving

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Presence of Marijuana Metabolite Not Sufficient to Prove Impaired Driving. The state's high court ruled Tuesday that motorists with a secondary marijuana metabolite in their system cannot be charged with a DUI on that basis alone, indicating the court was unconvinced the mere presence of the metabolite proves impairment. The state had argued that even the presence of metabolites in the urine of users was sufficient for a conviction, but the high court said "this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct" and "leads to absurd results." The case is Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan.

Michigan Bill Would Allow Police to Saliva Test for Drugs During Traffic Stops. The House Judiciary Committee is considering a package of bills related to drugged driving, including one, House Bill 5385, that would allow police to include saliva testing through a mouth swab. The measure is opposed by medical marijuana advocates, who raised concerns about the accuracy of the tests. The committee will continue taking testimony on the bills, which would also allow for police officers to confiscate driving licenses and issue temporary permits for drugged drivers as they do for suspected drunk drivers now.

Reproductive Rights

Tennessee Legislature Passes Bill Criminalizing Pregnant Women for Drug-Related Harm to Fetuses. A bill that holds women criminally accountable for illegal drug use during pregnancy, with punishments of up to 15 years in prison, passed the legislature last week. Senate Bill 1391 punished drug-using women if their babies are stillborn or born addicted or otherwise harmed. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has 10 days to decide whether to sign it into law.

Alabama Supreme Court Rules That Women Can Be Charged With Chemical Endangerment if They Become Pregnant and Use a Controlled Substance. The state Supreme Court last Friday upheld the conviction of a woman who gave birth to a baby that tested positive for cocaine, even though the infant was healthy. In so doing, the court upheld the state's 2006 chemical endangerment law and held that the word "child" in the law includes fertilized eggs. The case is Ex Parte Sara Jane Hicks. Alabama and South Carolina are the only states that authorize the prosecution of pregnant women for drug use, although as we see above, Tennessee could soon join them.

Prescription Drugs

Oklahoma Senate Approves Bill Adding Prescription Drugs to Drug Trafficking Law. The Senate Monday approved a bill adding four additional drugs to the state's Trafficking in Illegal Drugs Act. The measure, House Bill 2589, adds morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and benzodiazepine to the list of controlled substances in the act. Individuals convicted under the act would receive a minimum of 10 years, which is twice the prison term for possession of these substances. The bill is supported by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. It has been amended and will return to the House of Representatives for reconsideration.

Opiate Pain Relievers

FDA Panel Recommends Against Approving Dual Opioid Medication. An advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted Tuesday against approving a combination morphine-oxycodone painkiller. The drug, Moxduo, would be the first medication to combine both opioids in one capsule. Moxduo's manufacturer, QRxPharma, says the drug is intended to provide faster relief from moderate to severe pain, with fewer side effects than currently available opioids. The panel voted unanimously against approving it, concluding that QRxPharma had not proved the drug is less likely to cause potentially life-threatening respiratory suppression, compared with taking oxycodone or morphine alone.

Search and Seizure

US Supreme Court Upholds Vehicle Stops Based on Anonymous Tip. An unusually divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that an anonymous 911 phone call reporting a reckless driver justified a traffic stop that led to a marijuana. The 5-4 decision saw Justice Antonin Scalia side with the court's liberal minority, but Justice Stephen Breyer's vote gave the conservative majority the win. The case is Navarette v. California. The ruling means police need not corroborate anonymous reckless driving tips before stopping a vehicle.

Voting Rights

Virginia Governor to Restore Voting Rights for Drug Offenders. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Friday that he will immediately restore voting rights to anyone who has completed their sentence for a drug offense, and reduce the waiting period for other violent felonies from five years to three. Virginia is one of four states that ban all ex-felons from voting for life unless they receive clemency from the governor. But governors in these states can take executive action to alter the policies on these felons.

International

Sinaloa Cartel Losing Ground in Ciudad Juarez, Stratfor Analyst Says. The Carrillo Fuentes drug-trafficking organization, with its enforcement arm La Línea, is moving to regain the El Paso-Juárez corridor from the Sinaloa cartel, whose power in Juarez is eroding quickly, according to a terrorism and security analyst from the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. Click on the link for more details.

Faith Leaders Issue Easter Statement on War on Drugs, Mass Incarceration [FEATURE]

A broad coalition of Christian leaders have taken the occasion of the holiest day on the Christian calendar to release an Easter statement calling for the end of the war on drugs and mass incarceration. They said they chose the Easter season to release their statement because of the spirit of the Resurrection, which Easter commemorates and celebrates.

The Rev. Edwin Sanders (cannabisculture.com)
The statement calls for repealing laws that criminalize drug possession and replacing them with policies that expand access to effective health approaches to drug use, including evidence-based drug treatment.

It also calls for the elimination of policies that result in racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates and that that unjustly exclude people with a record of arrest or conviction from key rights and opportunities.

The United States is the world leader in incarceration, accounting for 25% of the global prison population while only making up 5% of the planet's population. In state prisons, drug offenders typically make up 20-30% of all prisoners, although that proportion has begun declining as nearly half the states have undertaken sentencing reforms in recent years.

But while state prison population numbers have begun a slight decline, the federal prison population continues to increase, driven in large part by the war on drugs. As of this month, there were more than 216,000 federal prisoners, with just more than half (50.1%) doing time for drug crimes, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

"The cross that faith leaders are imploring others to take up is this unjust and immoral war on drugs and mass incarceration of the poor. In particular, poor black and brown young adults whose futures are being ruined at the most critical point in their lives," said Reverend John E. Jackson of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

"We are guided by our religious principles to serve those in need and give voice to those who have been marginalized and stigmatized by unjust policies. We cannot sit silently while a misguided war is waged on entire communities, ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse. The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure," says Reverend Edwin Sanders, who is a Board Member of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

More than 100,000 people are doing time for drug offenses in federal prisons (wikimedia/chris piner)
"We are called upon to follow Jesus's example in opposing the war on drugs, which has resulted in the United States becoming the world's biggest jailer," added Sanders.

"Resurrection reality commissions and commands us to change these policies, laws and systems that rob whole communities of their most precious resource, their young. These are the ones Jesus faced betrayal, denial and desertion for. These are the ones Jesus gave up everything for. These are the issues Jesus was raised from a 3 day grave to speak truth to power to through our voices, through our crying loud and sparing not and through our organized efforts," added Jackson.

The story of the prodigal son is appropriate to ponder, said Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, Founder and Executive Director of The Ordinary Peoples Society, in Dothan, Alabama, himself a former drug war prisoner.

"The story of the prodigal son says he went out and lived a riotous life, like somebody who committed a crime or was on drugs or got incarcerated," said Glasgow. "The father of the prodigal son embraced him with open arms, but as a society, we don't do that. We incarcerate instead of trying to treat or restore. His father gave him shoes on his feet and a coat of many colors. These are things we're not doing when it comes to mass incarceration and the war on drugs."

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow (theordinarypeoplesociety.org)
The struggle against the war on drugs is a fight for civil rights and democracy, said Glasgow.

"After they gave us civil rights, they came along with the drug war and took our voting rights back," he said, referring to the hundreds of thousands who have had voted rights restricted or denied after being convicted of drug offenses.

There are concrete steps to take, said several speakers.

"We want to repeal the laws that criminalize drug possession and replace them with effective approaches, and put an end to any policy that unjustly excludes people because they have a previous criminal conviction," said the Rev Michael McBride, Director of Urban Strategies, Lifelines to Healing, Berkeley, California.

"We are fighting a righteous fight and standing in solidarity in the Holy Week to call for an end to the war on drugs and mass incarceration," McBride added. "We are organizing hundreds of faith congregations across the country to build a faith and moral movement to address and redress these unjust policies. Holy Week reminds us that death does not have a final say, but that God is able to bring redemption for the worst things that happen in our lives. Mass incarceration is the civil rights issue of our generation, and the faith community is in the forefront."

"For those of us who follow Jesus, this is the time to receive his grace, but also to receive his calling," said Bill Mefford, director of Civil and Human Rights for the United Methodist Church, which has been at the forefront of the faith community's challenge to the drug war. "It is time to proclaim relief for the captives and freedom for the oppressed. Unfortunately, because we are the world's leader in incarceration, we don't have to look far," he noted.

Mefford is the chairman of an interfaith coalition working on Capitol Hill to reform the criminal justice system. It represents 35 faith organizations with millions of members.

"There are steps we can take to rescue ourselves from our own captivity," Medford continued. "We can pass the Smarter Sentencing Act as an incremental step toward justice reform that will address costly overcrowding at the Bureau of Prisons by cutting in half mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offenses."

The Smarter Sentencing Act has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote. It has yet to move in the GOP-controlled House.

As Holy Week looms, it is indeed appropriate to ask that rhetorical question. When it comes to dealing with drug use and the drug trade, what would Jesus do?

New York City, NY
United States

"The New Jim Crow" Author Michelle Alexander Talks Race and Drug War [FEATURE]

On Thursday, Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling and galvanizing The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sat down with poet/activist Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance to discuss the book's impact and where we go from here.

Michelle Alexander (wikimedia.org)
The New Jim Crow has been a phenomenon. Spending nearly 80 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, it brought to the forefront a national conversation about why the United States had become the world's largest incarcerator, with 2.2 million in prison or jail and 7.7 million under control of the criminal justice system, and African American boys and men -- and now women -- making up a disproportionate number of those imprisoned. Alexander identified failed drug war policies as the primary driver of those numbers, and called for a greater challenge to them by key civil rights leaders.

It's now been nearly four years since The New Jim Crow first appeared. Some things have changed -- federal sentencing reforms, marijuana legalization in two states -- but many others haven't. Alexander and Bandele discuss what has changed, what hasn't, and what needs to, raising serious questions about the path we've been down and providing suggestions about new directions.

Audio of the conversation is online here, and a transcript follows here:

Asha Bandele: The US has 5% of the world's population, but has 25% of the world's incarcerated population, and the biggest policy cause is the failed drug war. How has the landscape changed in the last four years since The New Jim Crow came out?

Michelle Alexander: The landscape absolutely has changed in profound ways. When writing this book, I was feeling incredibly frustrated by the failure of many civil rights organizations and leaders to make the war on drugs a critical priority in their organization and also by the failure of many of my progressive friends and allies to awaken to the magnitude of the harm caused by the war on drugs and mass incarceration. At the same time, not so long ago, I didn't understand the horror of the drug war myself, I failed to connect the dots and understand the ways these systems of racial and social control are born and reborn.

But over last few years, I couldn't be more pleased with reception. Many people warned me that civil rights organizations could be defensive or angered by criticisms in the book, but they've done nothing but respond with enthusiasm and some real self-reflection.

There is absolutely an awakening taking place. It's important to understand that this didn't start with my book -- Angela Davis coined the term "prison industrial complex" years ago; Mumia Abu-Jamal was writing from prison about mass incarceration and our racialized prison state. Many, many advocates have been doing this work and connecting the dots for far longer than I have. I wanted to lend more credibility and support for the work that so many have been doing for some, but that has been marginalized.

I am optimistic, but at the same time, I see real reasons for concern. There are important victories in legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, in Holder speaking out against mandatory minimums and felon disenfranchisement, in politicians across the country raising concerns about the size of the prison state for the first time in 40 years, but much of the dialog is still driven by fiscal concerns rather than genuine concern for the people and communities most impacted, the families destroyed. We haven't yet really had the kind of conversation we must have as a nation if we are going to do more than tinker with the machine and break our habit of creating mass incarceration in America.

Asha Bandele: Obama has his My Brother's Keeper initiative directed at black boys falling behind. A lot of this is driven by having families and communities disrupted by the drug war. Obama nodded at the structural racism that dismembers communities, but he said it was a moral failing. He's addressed race the least of any modern American president. Your thoughts?

Michelle Alexander: I'm glad that Obama is shining a spotlight on the real crisis facing black communities today, in particular black boys and young men, and he's right to draw attention to it and elevate it, but I worry that the initiative is based more in rhetoric than in a meaningful commitment to addressing the structures and institutions that have created these conditions in our communities. There is a commitment to studying the problem and identifying programs that work to keep black kids in school and out of jail, and there is an aspect that seeks to engage foundations and corporations, but there is nothing in the initiative that offers any kind of policy change from the government or any government funding of any kind to support these desperately needed programs.

There is an implicit assumption that we just need to find what works to lift people up by their bootstraps, without acknowledging that we're waging a war on these communities we claim to be so concerned about. The initiative itself reflects this common narrative that suggests the reasons why there are so many poor people of color trapped at the bottom -- bad schools, poverty, broken homes. And if we encourage people to stay in school and get and stay married, then the whole problem of mass incarceration will no longer be of any real concern.

But I've come to believe we have it backwards. These communities are poor and have failing schools and broken homes not because of their personal failings, but because we've declared war on them, spent billions building prisons while allowing schools to fail, targeted children in these communities, stopping, searching, frisking them -- and the first arrest is typically for some nonviolent minor drug offense, which occurs with equal frequency in middle class white neighborhoods but typically goes ignored. We saddle them with criminal records, jail them, then release them to a parallel universe where they are discriminated against for the rest of their lives, locked into permanent second-class status.

We've done this in the communities most in need our support and economic investment. Rather than providing meaningful support to these families and communities where the jobs have gone overseas and they are struggling to move from an industrial-based economy to a global one, we have declared war on them. We have stood back and said "What is wrong with them?" The more pressing question is "What is wrong with us?"

Asha Bandele: During the Great Depression, FDR had the New Deal, but now it seem like there is no social commitment at the highest levels of government. And we see things like Eric Holder and Rand Paul standing together to end mandatory minimums. Is this an unholy alliance?

Michelle Alexander: We have to be very clear that so much of the progress being made on drug policy reflects the fact that we are at a time when politicians are highly motivated to downsize prisons because we can't afford the massive prison state without raising taxes on the predominantly white middle class. This is the first time in 40 years we've been willing to have a serious conversation about prison downsizing.

But I'm deeply concerned about us doing the right things for the wrong reasons. This movement to end mass incarceration and the war on drugs is about breaking the habit of forming caste-like systems and creating a new ethic of care and concern for each of us, this idea that each of us has basic human rights. That is the ultimate goal of this movement. The real issue that lies at the core of every caste system ever created is the devaluing of human beings.

If we're going to do this just to save some cash, we haven't woken up to the magnitude of the harm. If we are not willing to have a searching conversation about how we got to this place, how we are able to lock up millions of people, we will find ourselves either still having a slightly downsized mass incarceration system or some new system of racial control because we will have not learned the core lesson our racial history is trying to teach us. We have to learn to care for them, the Other, the ghetto dwellers we demonize.

Temporary, fleeting political alliances with politicians who may have no real interest in communities of color is problematic. We need to stay focused on doing the right things for the right reasons, and not count as victories battles won when the real lessons have not been learned.

Asha Bandele: Portugal decriminalized all drugs and drug use has remained flat, overdoses been cut by a third, HIV cut by two-thirds. What can we learn from taking a public health approach and its fundamental rejection of stigma?

Michelle Alexander: Portugal is an excellent example of how it is possible to reduce addiction and abuse and drug related crime in a non-punitive manner without filling prisons and jails. Supposedly, we criminalize drugs because we are so concerned about the harm they cause people, but we wind up inflicting far more pain and suffering than the substances themselves. What are we doing really when we criminalize drugs is not criminalizing substances, but people.

I support a wholesale shift to a public health model for dealing with drug addiction and abuse. How would we treat people abusing if we really cared about them? Would we put them in a cage, saddle them with criminal records that will force them into legal discrimination the rest of their lives? I support the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. If you possess a substance, we should help you get education and support, not demonize, shame, and punish you for the rest of your life.

I'm thrilled that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana and DC has decriminalized it -- these are critically important steps in shifting from a purely punitive approach. But there are warning flags. I flick on the news, and I see images of people using marijuana and trying to run legitimate businesses, and they're almost all white. When we thought of them as black or brown, we had a purely punitive approach. Also, it seems like its exclusively white men being interviewed as wanting to start marijuana businesses and make a lot of money selling marijuana.

I have to say the image doesn't sit right. Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for doing the same thing. As we talk about legalization, we have to also be willing to talk about reparations for the war on drugs, as in how do we repair the harm caused.

With regard to Iraq, Colin Powell said "If you break it, you own it," but we haven't learned that basic lesson from our own racial history. We set the slaves free with nothing, and after Reconstruction, a new caste system arose, Jim Crow. A movement arose and we stopped Jim Crow, but we got no reparations after the waging of a brutal war on poor communities of color that decimated families and fanned the violence it was supposed to address.

Do we simply say "We're done now, let's move on" and white men can make money? This time, we have to get it right; we have to tell the whole truth, we have to repair the harm done. It's not enough to just stop. Enormous harm had been done; we have to repair those communities.

Did You Know? "Incarcerated Felon Population in the US by Type of Crime Committed, 1974-2008," on ProCon.org

Did you know that drug cases accounted for nearly a quarter of all people incarcerated for felonies as of 2008, and more than half of all federal felony incarcerations? Read the details in "Incarcerated Felon Population in the US by Type of Crime Committed, 1974-2008," on the web site felonvoting.procon.org, part of the ProCon.org family.

This is the fourth in a six-part series of ProCon.org teasers being published in Drug War Chronicle. Keep tuning in to the Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org the next several weeks, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed. Read last week's Chronicle ProCon.org highlight piece here.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

Did You Know? International Comparison of Felon Voting Laws

Did you know that the US is an exception in restricting voting rights of ex-felons after they complete their sentences? A 2003 study of 45 democracies (including those with supporting documentation found in constitutions, electoral laws or other documents) found just five countries with such restrictions, one applying them only rarely through judicial orders. Read about it in International Comparison of Felon Voting Laws, on http://felonvoting.procon.org, part of the ProCon.org family.


This concludes Drug War Chronicle's ProCon.org Did You Know series. For more info, sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed, and click here for last week's Chronicle Did You Know segment. ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

We will return to ProCon.org in the fall. Next month we visit Drug War Facts.

Did You Know? Felon Loss of Voting Rights, on Procon.org

Did you know that nearly 1 in 40 people in the US voting population are barred from voting due to criminal convictions? Read about it on felonvoting.procon.org, part of the ProCon.org family.

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org over the next few weeks, or sign up forProCon.org's email list or RSS feed. Read last week's ProCon.org blurb here.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

The Drug War, Minorities and the Rust Belt

The Rust Belt is no stranger to America’s drug prohibition war. In her recent book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," former Stanford Law professor, civil rights lawyer, and current Ohio State University faculty member, Michelle Alexander convincingly paints the war on drugs as far more than just a failed multi-decade policy that has resulted in America becoming the prison capital of the world. She positions the drug war as part of a racial caste system that has imprisoned over a million African American men and disenfranchised even more.
Publication/Source: 
Rustwire.com
URL: 
http://rustwire.com/2011/01/25/the-drug-war-minorities-and-the-rust-belt/

Disenfranchisement News: Date Set for Disenfranchisement Court Case

 

Disenfranchisement News

 

Sentencing Project

In this issue

·         Indiana: Former Town Councilman Sues for Voting Rights 

·         Washington State: Date Set for Felon Disenfranchisement Case

·         National: 45 Years Later, Gains of Voting Rights Act Must be Advanced Further 

·         National: Report Finds Interaction with Law enforcement Reduces Political Participation

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Contact Us

Send an email to
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» CONTACT

The Sentencing Project
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8th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

 

September 15, 2010

Disenfranchisement News

Indiana

Former Town Councilman Sues for Voting Rights

Former Roseland Town Councilman David Snyder is suing the state of Indiana for removing his name from voter registration rolls after a 2008 misdemeanor battery conviction. WNDU Indiana reports that Mr. Snyder served time behind bars for the offense and that anyone who is imprisoned for even a misdemeanor crime in Indiana is automatically removed from the voter registration rolls.

Snyder's class action lawsuit is arguing that the policy violates the Indiana Constitution, which specifically bans those imprisoned for an "infamous crime." In the complaint it is claimed that past Indiana Court of Appeals decisions have defined that term as only applying to felonies.

"I realize if they're doing this to me, how many other thousands of people in the State of Indiana is this being done to?" said Snyder.

Washington State

Date Set for Felon Disenfranchisement Court Case

The full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has set a September 21st hearing date for a challenge of Washington State's ban on imprisoned and community supervised felons. A three-judge panel of the same Court had previously found the ban to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the constitutional rights of felons in a 2-1 ruling. The court based its finding on the grounds that the state's criminal justice system is "infected" with racial discrimination. However, that ruling has been put on hold pending the appeal.

The policy dates back to the time when Washington was still a territory.  The case will be personally argued by Attorney General Rob McKenna for the state, backed by Secretary of State Sam Reed.

Known as the Farrakhan case, the lawsuit has been in play for over 14 years and is one of Washington's longest running. KNDO reports that, "if the en banc panel affirms the three-judge panel, the case will be ripe for U.S. Supreme Court review" and that both the Attorney General and the Secretary of State are prepared for such an outcome.

A separate Seattle Times opinion piece by John Payton and Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund presents the case against the state. They argue that Washington State has never disputed court findings that African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than similarly situated whites, and that this difference "clearly hinders the ability of minorities to participate effectively in the political process." They claim that Washington has an admittedly discriminatory justice system that cannot and should not be used to take away the most basic right of a free democracy.

National

45 Years Later, Gains of Voting Rights Act Must be Advanced Further

It has been 45 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the progress that has been made must be continued into new areas, according to University of Baltimore School of Law assistant professor Gilda R. Daniels. She writes in The Huffington Post that while major gains have been made in black voter registration and representation, "felon disenfranchisement laws across the country strip the ability to vote from those who are no longer incarcerated and are attempting to become honorable citizens." This has led to the disenfranchisement of more than 30% of African-American males in some states. Daniels argues that the Voting Rights Act must adapt to our new and changing times in order to "ensure equal opportunity for all."

National

Report Finds Interaction with Law enforcement Reduces Political Participation

A new report by Vesla Weaver and Amy Lerman detailed by John Sides in the Washington Post finds that contact with the criminal justice system has a debilitating effect on one's political participation. The report found that, "those with contact at every level of criminal supervision withdraw from political life - they are not in civic groups, they are less likely to express their political voice in elections, they are less involved in their communities." Their research also shows that these interactions breed distrust in local, state, and federal government.

Sides said that proposed prison and justice reforms could lead to a more engaged public and reduce these extremely troubling issues.

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The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration.

 

  

Disenfranchisement News: VA, NY Governors on Right Track

 

 

Disenfranchisement News

 

Sentencing Project

In this issue

  • Virginia: Governor on Right Track » GO
  • New York: Newly Eligible Voters Now Have Right to Registrations Forms, Information » GO
  • Minnesota: Only One Way Around Voter Fraud » GO
  • Tennessee: "Warning:" Know the Rules Before Voting » GO

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Contact Us

Send an email to
The Sentencing Project.

» CONTACT

The Sentencing Project
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8th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

 

August 13, 2010

Disenfranchisement News

VIRGINIA

Governor on Right Track

Since Gov. Bob McDonnell first announced his promise to streamline the voter restoration process for residents with felony records, he has granted voting rights to 506 of the 574 eligible applicants.

This is the first update since the administration announced a 60-day deadline to act on applications and a review process that it said would be faster and more efficient, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Of the total 1,080 applications, 650 were left over from the Kaine administration. Another 430 applications were received under McDonnell's term between January and May.

Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said McDonnell could likely be as progressive as his Democratic  predecessors.  Gov. Timothy M. Kaine restored the rights of more than 4,300 persons. Gov. Mark R. Warner restored rights to 3,486.

In the Times-Dispatch's additional coverage, it reported that Frank Anderson was ecstatic to receive news in the mail about his restoration.

"I thank the governor for doing the right thing, not just for my case, but making the policy clearer," said Anderson, who under Kaine's leadership was denied restoration. "I hope he doesn't stop there."

NEW YORK

Newly Eligible Voters Now Have Right to Registration Forms, Information

Gov. David Paterson signed a new law requiring the Department of Correctional Services and the Division of Parole to provide voter registration forms and information to people who are newly eligible to vote following a felony conviction. New York's new law is the latest in a national trend. Twenty-four other states and New York City already require certain state and local agencies to inform people when their voting rights are restored following a criminal conviction. "It is a simple, workable policy that promises to have a major impact in assuring successful reintegration and reconnection to the community," said Erika Wood, Director of the Brennan Center's Right to Vote Project which helped advocate for the policy change.

MINNESOTA

Only One Way Around Voter Fraud

A Minnesota policymaker wants to institute a photo ID requirement for voting in an effort to prevent felon voter fraud, but advocate Dan McGrath, writing in the Star-Tribune, noted that such a policy would not resolve the issue.

"If [Rep. Dan] Severson really wants to address this problem, a better solution would be for Minnesota to join the 14 states that restore a person's right to vote automatically upon their release from prison (or the two states, Maine and Vermont, that never take away a person's right to vote)," states McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, a coalition of organizations concerned with economic and social justice.

The continuing debate of whether or not voting by people with felony convictions helped Sen. Al Franken win the 2008 Senate race has resurfaced on Fox News by way of Governor Tim Pawlenty.

"I suspect they favored Al Franken," the Governor told the FOX morning hosts, "I don't know that. But if that turned out to be true they may have flipped that election in a very close election."

His assertions, however, have not been proven, KARE11.com reports, as county officials and lawyers have conducted investigations in the matter. Their findings state that some individuals had been registered but did not vote in the 2008 election. Two individuals have been charged with election fraud. Minnesota law states that individuals are banned from voting until their sentence, including probation and parole, has been completed. Read coverage here. Click here to read a blog post by George Mason University Professor, Michael McDonald.

TENNESSEE

  "Warning:" Know the Rules Before Voting

Prior to the start of early voting, the State Gazette put out a special notice to voters: "Warning: Don't vote in the Aug. 5 county election and state primaries if you're a convicted felon."

The editorial "warned" that state officials are cracking down on illegal voting. In fact, eight people with felony records who voted within the last four years were recently indicted.

"The district attorney said this is the first time anyone has been indicted for illegal voting in Dyer County, and it may not be the last," the editorial stated.

State laws allows some residents to request rights restoration after completion of their sentence. Individuals convicted of murder, rape, treason or voter fraud cannot vote.

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The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration.

  

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