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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August 13, 2010
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."
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.
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.
"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.
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.