State & Local Legislatures

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Disenfranchisement: News/Updates (March 2, 2007 Edition)

[From our friends at The Sentencing Project] Florida: Continued Debate on Restoring the Vote Gov. Charlie Crist postponed a vote this week that would have allowed most formerly incarcerated individuals voting rights upon completion of sentence. The Florida Board of Executive Clemency was expected to vote in favor of the long-awaited change, but Crist did not want to isolate fellow Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum as the lone vote, according to the Miami Herald. “Obviously, I favor the restoration of civil rights and I am optimistic we will be able to get to that point, but I want to build a consensus before we go there,” said Crist following the state clemency board meeting. Prior to the postponement, Attorney General McCollum submitted a list of four recommendations to Crist and the board to reduce the backlog of formerly incarcerated individuals interested in regaining their civil rights, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The list suggested more frequent clemency meetings in addition to drafting a list of those not eligible for civil rights restoration without a hearing. A Tallahassee Democrat opinion editorial discussed the various restrictions imposed on formerly incarcerated persons and the resources necessary for rehabilitation, as pointed out in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Ex-Offender Task Force report. Author Mark Schlakman also highlighted the necessity of re- enfranchisement both for reintegration and public safety. Alabama: Attorney General Defends View, ‘Sets the Record Straight’ In response to various newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, Alabama Attorney General Troy King defended his view in a Montgomery Advertiser guest column advocating that all persons completing a sentencing should have to apply to have their rights restored. He wrote: “Regardless of what editorialists say, ‘all the conditions of a sentence’ have not been met when a convicted felon completes his or her prison sentence. The suspension of voting rights is not a separate punishment, but part of the original sentence. I have proposed that we return to a more simple and workable solution by removing the civil and political rights of anyone who is convicted of a felony. The Advertiser should be ashamed of its willingness to cheapen democracy by advocating the automatic restoration of rights to felons. The rest of us should refuse to help them.” National: Disenfranchisement Reform Taking Hold "Momentum for felony disenfranchisement reform began 10 years ago. Since 1997, 16 states have taken steps to reform disenfranchisement laws and more than 600,000 people have regained their voting rights," states Kara Gotsch, director of advocacy for The Sentencing Project, in a column featured on Tompaine.com. She notes that policymakers have introduced legislation addressing felony disenfranchisement in 20 states this year, and voting rights advances are expected in Maryland and Florida. Gotsch's piece also highlights the disproportionate racial impact of disenfranchisement policies and emphasizes the benefits of restoring the right to vote upon release from prison. The Washington Informer featured a summary of recent efforts in vote restoration around the nation, including a recent meeting of Maryland African Methodist Episcopal church leaders and state legislators considering re-enfranchisement to formerly incarcerated individuals. Maine: Disenfranchisement Bill is Too Lenient, Columnist Says Representative Steve Hanley is the first Democrat to sponsor legislation denying prison inmates the right to vote in Maine by way of a bill banning voting rights to persons convicted of murder and Class A and B offenses. Kennebec Journal columnist George Smith praised Hanley’s efforts, yet said his bill is too lenient and suggested that all offenders, currently or formerly incarcerated, should not possess the right to vote. Because the legislation requires a constitutional amendment, the bill must win the votes of two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate, which is not considered likely. Vermont is the only other state that allows incarcerated individuals the right to vote. Kentucky: Students Take a Stand in Opposition of Disenfranchisement Students at the University of Kentucky, along with disenfranchised residents, participated this week in Restoration of Voting Rights Lobby Day in support of HB70, which would allow citizens to vote on whether or not to restore some felons' voting rights. If passed, residents will vote in 2008 on whether to change the Kentucky Constitution to allow persons convicted of non-violent crimes to vote after they complete their sentence. See the Kentucky Kernel. Contact Information: Email: [email protected] web: http://www.sentencingproject.org
Location: 
United States

Op-Ed: State's war on drugs a 100-year-old bust

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/04/ING44OD4AU1.DTL

Expansion of medical marijuana gets first OK

Location: 
Montpelier, VT
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Times Argus (VT)
URL: 
http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070301/NEWS02/703010404/1003/NEWS02

Mexican drug gains U.S. following

Location: 
Boston, MA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=inDepthNews&storyID=2007-02-28T130642Z_01_N24424552_RTRUKOC_0_US-DRUGS-SALVIA.xml&WTmodLoc=NewsHome-C3-inDepthNews-2

Lawmakers target marijuana-flavored candy

Location: 
GA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
URL: 
http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/georgia/entries/2007/02/27/lawmakers_targe_1.html

The Sentencing Project: Disenfranchisement News & Updates

Maryland: Lawmakers Push to Restore Vote Maryland lawmakers are pushing a bill that would immediately restore the right to vote following release from prison, the Baltimore Sun reported. The proposed legislation would also change the current Maryland law which bans formerly incarcerated individuals with two felony convictions from voting three years after sentence completion. Bills have also been introduced that would restore voting rights after completion of sentence, including parole. Similar proposals failed in the state last year. For additional coverage, see the Washington Post and the Washington Times. Florida: Gov. Crist Vows to Restore the Vote Gov. Charlie Crist said this week that he may issue an executive order restoring civil rights to formerly incarcerated individuals who have completed their sentences, the St. Petersburg Times reported. “My plan is to work with you to make sure we restore civil rights,” Crist said during a visit with the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. “The important thing is that we get there. It’s going to be better than where we are now, I can tell you that.” Crist indicated he may still continue to seek a policy change in the four-member Cabinet, or by changing state law, though Cabinet member, Attorney General Bill McCollum, opposes automatic restoration. Alabama: Amending Constitution to State’s Old Ways Will Strip Rights, and Money from State Residents An editorial in the Anniston Star condemned Alabama’s stringent disenfranchisement laws. Commenting on Attorney General Troy King’s proposal for a constitutional amendment requiring all individuals who have completed a felony sentence to apply to the state parole board to get their voting rights restored after finishing their punishment, the editorial board stated: “By adding King's amendment to the Constitution citizens are either voting to raise the revenue for hearing and processing the requests or they are indicating their willingness to accept the problems the amendment will create” for an overworked, overburdened Board of Pardons and Paroles. For more coverage, see Votelaw. Arizona: Accountant Faces Prison for Voting The confusion behind who can vote and when has sparked a court case for an Arizona man who may face up to five years in prison for voting in the 2004 presidential election. Dale Schwartz had been on probation for illegally collecting unemployment benefits, and said he didn’t know the law banned those on probation from voting. Schwartz rejected a plea bargain offer for the voting charge that would have doled out a three-month prison term, according to the Phoenix New Times. “No one ever told me the law about this,” he says. “I just can't accept pleading guilty to something I didn't know about.” Colorado: Parolees Hoping to Vote Face Attorney General, Secretary of State Opposition The ACLU and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition rallied this week for community support of SB 83, an election reform bill that would allow people on parole to vote. Both the Attorney General's office and the Secretary of State's office oppose parolee voting on grounds that it is unconstitutional. The Colorado constitution, however, states that persons confined in prison may not vote, but it leaves the voting rights of parolees at the discretion of the legislature, granting that body the power to define "term of imprisonment." The Colorado Supreme Court recently confirmed this by stating, "...parole is part of the incarcerated person's sentence when the General Assembly so provides." Previous legislatures saw fit to disenfranchise parolees by voting to define parole as part of the "term of imprisonment." Currently, people on probation and people in jail serving a misdemeanor sentence can vote. National: If They Can be Recruited for Military, They Should be Able to Vote An Associated Press article reported that the U.S. military is accepting more recruits with criminal and felony records. In response to the article, a “Concurring Opinions” writer asked on why the nation would allow formerly incarcerated individuals to represent the country in the armed forces but not at the ballot box. “If we trust felons (at least some of them) enough to let them carry guns and have access to our military in the middle of a war, I can't see an argument that there's any valid reason to prevent them from voting,” wrote Scott Moss.
Location: 
United States

Mandatory drug terms are targeted in report

Location: 
MD
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Baltimore Sun
URL: 
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.minimum27feb27,0,1196962.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

Drug-test bill prefers saliva over urine jar

Location: 
HI
United States
Publication/Source: 
Star Bulletin (HI)
URL: 
http://starbulletin.com/2007/02/25/news/story07.html

Editorial: Truth and medical marijuana

Location: 
Chicago, IL
United States
Publication/Source: 
Chicago Tribune
URL: 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0702240205feb24,1,7151264.story?coll=chi-opinionfront-hed

Vt. Senate may soon see medical marijuana bill

Location: 
Montpelier, VT
United States
Publication/Source: 
Rutland Herald (VT)
URL: 
http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070223/NEWS03/702230330/1004/NEWS03

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