Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
January 17, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Draw Your Weapon!

Truthdig Bazaar
In the Hot Zone

In the Hot Zone

By Kevin Sites

more items

Email this item Print this item

Millions Without a Voice

Posted on Feb 6, 2008

By Amy Goodman

  As I raced into our TV studio for our Super Tuesday morning-after show, I was excited. Across the country, initial reports indicated there was unprecedented voter participation, at least in the Democratic primaries, several times higher than in previous elections. For years I have covered countries like Haiti, where people risk death to vote, while the U.S. has one of the lowest participation rates in the industrialized world. Could it be this year would be different?

  Then I bumped into a friend and asked if he had voted. “I can’t vote,” he said, “because I did time in prison.” I asked him if he would have voted. “Sure I would have. Because then I’m not just talking junk, I’m doing something about it.”

  Felony disenfranchisement is the practice by state governments of barring people convicted of a felony from voting, even after they have served their time. In Virginia and Kentucky, people convicted of any felony can never vote again (this would include “Scooter” Libby, even though he never went to jail, unless he is pardoned). Eight other states have permanent felony disenfranchisement laws, with some conditions that allow people to rejoin the voter rolls: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming.

  Disenfranchisement—people being denied their right to vote—takes many forms, and has a major impact on electoral politics. In Ohio in 2004, stories abounded of inoperative voting machines, too few ballots or too few voting machines. Then there was Florida in 2000. Many continue to believe that the election was thrown to George W. Bush by Ralph Nader, who got about 97,000 votes in Florida. Ten times that number of Floridians are prevented from voting at all. Why? Currently, more than 1.1 million Floridians have been convicted of a felony and thus aren’t allowed to vote. We can’t know for sure how they would have voted, but as scholar, lawyer and activist Angela Davis said recently in a speech honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Mobile, Ala., “If we had not had the felony disenfranchisement that we have, there would be no way that George Bush would be in the White House.”

  Since felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects African-American and Latino men in the U.S., and since these groups overwhelmingly vote Democratic, the laws bolster the position of the Republican Party. The statistics are shocking. Ryan King, policy analyst with The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., summarized the latest:

  About 5.3 million U.S. citizens are ineligible to vote due to felony disenfranchisement; 2 million of them are African-American. Of these, 1.4 million are African-American men, which translates into an incredible 13 percent of that population, a rate seven times higher than in the overall population. Forty-eight states have some version of felony disenfranchisement on the books. All bar voting from prison, then go on to bar participation while on parole or probation. Two states, Maine and Vermont, allow prisoners to vote from behind the walls, as does Canada and a number of other countries.

  The politicians and pundits are all abuzz with the massive turnouts in the primaries and caucuses. There are increasing percentages of women participating, and initial reports point to more young people. The youth vote is particularly important, as young people have less invested in the status quo and can look with fresh eyes at long-standing injustices that disenfranchise so many. In this context, one of The Sentencing Project’s predictions bears repeating here: “Given current rates of incarceration, 3 in 10 of the next generation of black men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime. In states that disenfranchise ex-offenders, as many as 40 percent of black men may permanently lose their right to vote.”

  The Sentencing Project’s King said: “We are constantly pushing for legislative change around the country. But public education is absolutely key. There are so many different laws that people simply don’t know when their right to vote has been restored. That includes the personnel who work in state governments giving out the wrong information.”

  I called my friend to tell him he was misinformed. He hadn’t been on probation or parole for years. “You can vote,” I told him. “You just have to register.” I could hear him smile through the phone.

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate


Square, Site wide

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments
thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, May 25, 2008 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment

The sad truth, Rodney Renfro, is that the two cowardly main political parties will not even address this issue. The war on drugs, like the war on terror, is a sham being perpetrated by those who benefit from this fraud, and those who enable it to continue. True human rights means that you decide what medicines or substance you administer to the temple known as your body. That is liberty. What you do or not do peacefully is your business, not the government’s.

Report this

By rodney renfro, April 23, 2008 at 7:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i am a 60’s but grew up in the 70’s hippy values individual. the government quickly weeded me out of the political process, because of the drug laws. my grandpa was a bootlegger during prohibition, so when you drink your beer, remember the ones who went to prison, lost their land, for that right. I am free of prejudice, I am working class poor. please be carefull when you join the lynch mob screaming to hang the druggies. we just want to be free, have fun, and we work hard in this society. please leave us alone, we are the modern witches, in this modern inquisition. love peace…

Report this

By Adriel Chaney, February 23, 2008 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No Constitutional right to vote? Wrong, see the 15th amendment to the constitution; unless you think that amendment isn’t a part of the constitution or is unconstitutional on it’s face.

No federal law affecting the right to vote? Wrong again, see the 1965 voting rights act. Unless you think the act isn’t federal and/or law.

State’s rights; The justification of the confederate rebellion as well as the cause of the failure of reconstruction and the subsequent rise of Jim crow.

State’s rights cannot be embraced by any people of good conscience especially those of African ancestry until all people’s rights and humanity are respected and protected by all states and under all circumstances.


Report this

By shapeshifter, February 15, 2008 at 6:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

After working with people presently incarcerated and with people on parole, it is striking how many had no alternatives to selling drugs.  Why?  Because working up to three dead-end jobs at minimum wage was not nearly enough to pay rent, pay utility bills, pay for childcare, provide food for oneself and one’s children and pay for transportation to and from work and daycare.  Selling drugs often enables people, especially single mothers, to provide for their family in a way that working several minimum wage jobs never will. 

Unless wages are increased as are employment training and accessibility and job security, how will anyone afford the cost of living today and in the future?

Also, the “food” in prison is not exactly food.  It is high calorie starch in the form of slop that satiates.  It took years and years of legislative work for the prison for women in Connecticut to offer real fruit, which is possibly the only nutritious option in prison (iceburg lettuce has nearly no nutritional value).

Thus, the physical health of prisoners is significantly deteriorated, exacerbating their mental and emotional health problems.

You are right, there is a lack of real rehab on the inside, increasing the rate of recidivism.

Report this

By Conservative Yankee, February 14, 2008 at 7:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe the US has more prisoners per capita because criminals in countries with a lower rate of incarceration, “Just Disappear” never making it to trial or to prison, and are never seen or heard from again. Or could it be that in the US we are granted greater freedom, the choice to either obey or disobey the law, while many other countries don’t garner this same freedom to their citizens. Case in point, crime was near zero in Iraq under Saddam Hussain’s rule, as was their election turnout.

Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, England, France, Norway, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Austria, Spain, Japan, Poland, Germany, and many other countries do not “disappear” their citizens.

There are many “free” societies in the world, some even “freer than our own.  The Netherlands comes to mind.

No, it is in the USA where incarceration is a business subject to capitalist whims and nods that we incarcerate large numbers of folks for “crimes” against no one but themselves.

There are some numbers which might interest on this subject.

Nearly 20% of young (under 25)prison inmates spent part of their youth in foster care. this increases to 35% if all inmates are included.

One in six U.S. prisoners is mentally ill.

Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes.

The US taxpayers spent over 200 Billion dollars in 2005 on our justice system from court, through imprisonment.  This does not include police or local enforcement.

Most (55%) prisoners re offend after their first stay in prison.

It would seem to me we have two options.

1.) when we imprison someone, do not ever let them out.
2.) revamp our system so non-violent criminals do not cost us as much.

It would seem to me that given our ever increasing incarceration rate we are doing something wrong.

Obviously, trying children as young as 10 in adult court is not working.

I’m not closed minded on this, I would be willing to listen to other ideas?

Report this

By Jenny, February 13, 2008 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Where is the logic in taking away a felon’s voting right? I pawed through many many comments here, and maybe I missed it, but WHERE is the logic in this law? I think treason is a good reason for it, but who is afraid that ex-addicts are going to somehow takeover the country or the like? I don’t understand it.

My brother fell victim to addiction and is in prison for drugs and drug-related charges, but he is not necessarily insane, illogical or incapable of voting. 

PS: I also don’t think there’s any real rehab on the inside. It’s just food, housing and survival of the streetwise.

Report this

By deh, February 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I used to think disenfranchisement was appropriate for the reasons you state. Until I realized that

1) people are being permanently, as in for life, disenfranchised for crimes for which they are not serving life sentences

2) a disproproportionate number of convicted felons are people of color and this is NOT because a disproportionate number of people of color are irresponsible citizens; it’s because more of them belong to a class (at the lower end of the socio-economic scale) that doesn’t get good legal representation and, as the recent situation in Jena, Louisiana, made clear, there is a lot of inequity in the way laws are applied to different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups in some places. Until we address the inequities in our justice system, disenfranchisement of convicted felons is just another form of disenfranchisement of people of color. And, as we saw with the 2000 election, the practice can be used to manipulate the outcome of an election by deliberately (even if sometimes erroneously) disenfranchising certain groups of voters. 

3) our insane drug laws allow people to be convicted as felons for attempting to use what would, without those laws, be just another herb (would you rather pay $100 a pill—or more—for something to help with chemo- or AIDS-induced nausea, do without because you can’t afford it, or grow your own herb at a fraction of the cost?)

4) our insane drug laws allow relatively innocent, if naive and/or unintelligent, people caught up in drug sweeps (people whose significant others are involved in the drug trade, people whose relatives are involved, etc.) to be convicted as felons because they don’t know enough to trade with the DA, while the worse players get off simply because they have more information to trade. So the more irresponsible citizens still get to vote and the somewhat innocent bystanders don’t.

5) in a country with such a low voter turnout rate, we can use all the citizens who care enough to vote. If they want to vote let them. The irresponsible ones will weed themselves out.


Report this

By Debra, February 13, 2008 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We all need to open our eyes even more to whats happening in these United States as well as around the world. The powers that be do not want peace, they do not want us to come together, they want us as divided as possible to keep us from figuring out the truth behind the Military industrial complex/New World Order.

Why else would we have a two-party system? To keep us divided. These people are ruthless and would stop at nothing to destroy us. The poor and needy to them is nothing more than the waste on the bottom of their shoes, and everything they do in secret point to our destruction. Just take everything, like puzzle pieces and put it together and look at the BIG picture. This is why people is not figuring this stuff out, it’s too horrible to conceive, and yet it is true. This is one of the reasons why nothing get done for the greater good and why they are sooooo contrary to everything suggested. IT IS ALL DELIBRATE, ALL OF IT. WAKE UP MY PEOPLE. They are not hiding it, you just have to be open to look and believe.

Report this
thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, February 13, 2008 at 4:08 am Link to this comment

People who take the hard line that all people in prison are bad, think nothing of depriving their citizenship even after they have done their sentences. The war on illegal drugs is a perfect example of unjust laws furthering more injustice. What is in fact a health and safety concern is twisted into some kind of weird morality judgment that claims the use of forbidden substances is an unpardonable sin.
These draconian steps help to disenfranchise millions of citizens, and are especially brutal against the poor in general, and black in particular. It is not surprising that folks who embrace repression want to see these insane laws kept in place.

Report this

By Paul F, February 13, 2008 at 2:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Do we really want to give the power of deciding national direction through the polling place to those who have proven a serious inability to make decisions? If someone cannot understand the consequences of their actions to the point that they are put behind bars for major crimes committed while free members of society ~ I for one have very strong reservations with regard to giving them the power to influence my life and the lives of society as a whole. It’s obvious that prison is not about reform, so what would they have done to prove that their ways have changed?

Report this

By naghma, February 11, 2008 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Once you have done your time, you should have the right to vote.  There is nothing “soft on crime” about that.  Permanent disenfranchisement of any group does not further democracy.

Report this

By Joe Alt, February 9, 2008 at 7:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let me get this straight: It’s o.k. for a crook to run the country but a ex con can’t even vote? Sounds pretty Nixonian to me.

Report this
thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, February 8, 2008 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

Amy Goodman as usual, makes some very interesting points about the so-called democratic system. Although the intelligentsia complains about the stupidity of the great unwashed, I would prefer to live in a country where all citizens have the right to vote, whether they have broken laws or not. Also ONE PERSON ONE VOTE should be the law of the land, with complete abolishment of the electoral college. When that happens, there is a distinct possibility that the tyranny of the two party system will come to an end.

Report this

By antispin, February 8, 2008 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

Yeah, you can be a constitution crushing, draft dodging, drunk driving, multiple felon and get elected to POTUS, but if you possess a banned plant from the cannibus family…too bad for you: you’re out of luck.

Report this

By Michael Regan, February 8, 2008 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree 100%. To participate in society you have to play by the rules of the land. If you can’t follow that then you shouldn’t be allowed to have a say…

Report this

By Margo Smith, February 8, 2008 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In what the media is now calling “Double Bubble Trouble,“94,000
“Decline-to-State” votes in Los Angeles County—50% of the total DTS
ballots cast—are being rejected due to a ballot design flaw, 
despite the Courage Campaign’s discovery of the “double bubble” 
problem and official notification to the Registrar prior to Election
Unfortunately, Dean Logan, the Registrar in charge of Los Angeles
County, is refusing to conduct a physical hand-count of every
“Decline-to-State” vote before the official vote is certified in just
a few weeks.
Every vote must be counted. And time is running out.

On Monday morning, 24 hours before polls opened, we sent a letter from
our lawyer to the L.A. ROV, threatening legal action if the Registrar
did not rectify the ballot problem before the primary.

Unfortunately, on Election Day, polling places across Los Angeles
erupted as the votes of DTS voters were rejected, even though almost
every one of these
voters clearly intended to vote for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

We need to protect voter rights, increase voter confidence in our
elections system, and prevent this from ever happening again.

Please sign our petition to Registrar Dean Logan today demanding that
he conduct a physical hand count of all “Decline-to-State” votes cast
in the Democratic primary. With hearings being set up and the eyes of
California voters converging on Los Angeles County, there’s no time to
waste. With only 26 days left before the L.A. County vote is
officially certified, there’s no time to waste:

If you know of any “Decline-to-State” voters in Los Angeles please
send them to a special web page we have set up specifically for
disenfranchised DTS voters:

Report this

By .zan, February 8, 2008 at 8:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


If we stop for a while and look what is there in any issue, what do we see? The primary misconception or unquestioned belief is that most people take for granted their separation from others. Of course there is separation, and this is enforced by so many things, separate physical bodies, minds and so on. Of course if we look very closely, even scientifically we see that we are dependent, even co-dependant on one another in such radical and fundamental ways that are not acknowledged in our separative, territorial and warfare behavior.

Rather than try to convince others (though mild, just more agression) on a conceptual and rhetorical level, how do you think we can be more aware of and look closer at this ignored and fundamental situation, a belief in our separateness, that to some of us is the obvious issue? Questions are not weapons.




Report this
Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 8, 2008 at 7:42 am Link to this comment

RE: WHAT!!!, February 7

I know it was for indentured servants, but it also says for “no previous condition”.  Also, a convicted felon is still a citizen of the United States.  It doesn’t matter what some “nuts” in some states think.  Your citizenship is not revoked for commiting a felony so how can a state revoke your RIGHT to vote.  This is a RIGHT protected by the constitution.  Someone needs to challege this.

This is not an issue of paying for your crime.  This is an issue of paying and paying and paying for your crime.  I agree with Jackpine Savage, the only crime for which a right to vote should be rescinded is TREASON.


For the record “WHAT!!!”, in some states having ONE joint of marijuana (you know the stuff the CIA traffics) is a felony.  So should people should lose their right to vote for something so minor?  It’s BS, wake up and smell the coffee.

Report this

By asIseeit, February 8, 2008 at 4:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Voting should not be considered a privilege in some states, but a right in others. I am a convicted felon for a nonviolent and victimless crime in the State of Delaware. In some staes my crime was considered a misdemeanor. My voting rights were take away before my conviction and sentencing. 10 miles west of where I live, in Md., voting rights were restored for all felons imediately upon serving their sentence. I was never imprisoned but have completed my probation and sentence. I continue to pay my taxes but have no say in the government of my stae or America, but if I lived 10 miles west of here I would. Is that democracy? NO!!! I honorably served my country during the Vietnam war and have paid my taxes for 43 straight years, but does that count for anything? NO! I made one stupid mistake and now cannot vote, am stigmatized as a felon and all that it entails. Society wants me to be law abiding productive member, but will continue to put up roadblocks after I’ve repaid my debt. I can accept some of the stupidity of my situation, but I cannot accept the loss of the RIGHT to vote!!!!!!!!!

Report this

By BradM, February 7, 2008 at 11:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

1. Maybe the US has more prisoners per capita because criminals in countries with a lower rate of incarceration, “Just Disappear” never making it to trial or to prison, and are never seen or heard from again. Or could it be that in the US we are granted greater freedom, the choice to either obey or disobey the law, while many other countries don’t garner this same freedom to their citizens. Case in point, crime was near zero in Iraq under Saddam Hussain’s rule, as was their election turnout.

2. Surely, Lawrence, MA gives their voters the option of submitting an absentee or mail-in ballot when unable to vote in person on election day. Not being able to vote should never be an issue. This sounds more like an excuse for not being responsible; it is much easier to blame others than to be in-charge of our own destiny. Transportation should not be an issue. Besides, there are generally many precincts within a city, often only a matter of a few block from any voter. As a last resort, either take a bus, call a cab or family and friends.

3. Of greater importance is how a large number of disenfranchised voters in Alameda Co., CA were denied their right to vote on Tuesday. These long-time registered Republican voters were somehow switched (by a “glitch” in the Registrars Office)  to either a Democrat or an Independent, and they were not allowed to cast their vote for a Republican candidate in the closed primary.

Report this

By WHAT!!!, February 7, 2008 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You certainly are no lawyer.  Considering that Amendment XV was added in 1870, the phrase “previous condition of servitude” was in reference to former slaves or indentured servants.  People in jail are neither…

A civilized democratic society is based upon both freedom and self-restraint.  To enjoy the freedoms of the society one must practice self-restraint.  Only when an individual obeys the laws of the land is he entitled to the participate in its government.  Of course, a just society does not arbitrarily limit freedom, but commision of crimes serious to be considered felonies is probably a good indication that the person does not deserve the right to participate in the democratic process…

Report this
Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 7, 2008 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment

The fifteenth amendment to the CONSTITUTION OF THE US:

Amendment XV
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The VOTING RIGHTS act of 1965.


My question is this, US CODE: Title 42, Chapter 20, Subchapter 1 states:

“(a) Race, color, or previous condition not to affect right to vote; uniform standards for voting qualifications; errors or omissions from papers; literacy tests; agreements between Attorney General and State or local authorities; definitions
(1) All citizens of the United States who are otherwise qualified by law to vote at any election by the people in any State, Territory, district, county, city, parish, township, school district, municipality, or other territorial subdivision, shall be entitled and allowed to vote at all such elections, without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; any constitution, law, custom, usage, or regulation of any State or Territory, or by or under its authority, to the contrary notwithstanding.” goes on and on.

So…can a state deny you the right to vote?  I’m not a lawyer but it sounds to me like you can’t be denied the RIGHT to vote because of “race, color, or PREVIOUS CONDITION OF SERVITUDE.

If the constitution gives you the RIGHT to vote does the state have the authority to take it away?  Is there a FEDERAL law that says felons can’t vote?

Article quote: “In states that disenfranchise ex-offenders, as many as 40 percent of black men may permanently lose their right to vote.”

Is this even constitutional…?

Paragraph 2 states: “(2) No person acting under color of law shall—
(A) in determining whether any individual is qualified under State law or laws to vote in any election, apply any standard, practice, or procedure different from the standards, practices, or procedures applied under such law or laws to other individuals within the same county, parish, or similar political subdivision who have been found by State officials to be qualified to vote;”

If you have “paid your debt” to society, aren’t you being treated differently by NOT being allowed to vote if you are an American citizen?

Contrary to popular facist philosophy and rhetoric, CITIZENS have RIGHTS and once someone has fulfilled their “debt” to society, why can’t they vote?

There seems to be this “unwritten law” that says we can treat ex offenders differently.  That should be AGAINST THE LAW, unless extentuating circumstances apply; such as, we don’t want known child molestors who are ex felons working in day care.  That’s reasonable.  But to deny the right to vote…..?  That’s just plain malicious.  That’s BS.

Report this

By voice of truth, February 7, 2008 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment

There is no right to vote in the US Constitution.  There is in some state constitutions, and it is the states who pass laws barring felons from voting. 

Where is the issue here?  Isn’t this all about State’s rights?  You’ll notice that there are absolutely no Federal laws which enhance or abridge anyone’s right to vote, because there is no Federal right to vote!

As the point made by one other poster, voting is a responsibility.  So is not committing a felony.

Report this

By librochi5, February 7, 2008 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

driving bear, however admirable your voice is, you forget that there are still wrongly convicted people who suffer from losing their voting rights. Not only that, but there are convicted felons who have left the system and not been re-arrested or re-convicted. Do those people deserve to lose their voices as well? I think not.

Think about how you would feel if you were a 20 year old kid with a felony conviction and you were not allowed to vote. Everyone makes mistakes, they are “punished” for them, but losing your right to vote, especially when statistics show insurmountable biases against African-American and Latino populations, is too large a price to pay.

Report this

By .zan, February 7, 2008 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Far from even voting or knowing about their rights when they get out, these places of incarceration are not good for basic sanity. This is a slow form of torture. Having gone into Federal (MN) and State (MI) prisons for a number of years as a volunteer (I teach meditation)it is obvious to me that they generally don’t care about rehabilitating anyone. I unless you have someone on the inside, a chaplain or another admin person you wont even get in. It always takes several months (8-9) of persistent effort, writing, phoning and now emailing just to get in. Then you have to deal with the regulations an sometimes (not always) unfriendly, disrespectful treatment by the guards or staff.  It is a difficult situation and it is disheartening to see these men who maybe made some bad mistakes, just decay in a system that stores living beings in cement and steel boxes for decades and decades until they die or max out.  I just try to help them get a little sanity in an insane system.


Report this

By Phillip Bannowsky, February 7, 2008 at 10:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a result of a 20-year struggle and the collaboration of 40 organizations including Common Cause, Delaware Pacem in Terris, and the Delaware A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Delaware State Constitution was amended in 2000 to permit most ex-felons to vote. Permanantly barred are homicides, sex offenders, and persons guilty of public malfeasance, and there is a waiting period of 5 years after completion of sentence.  I was chair of this coalition. A new amendment is now working through the state legislature to eliminate the waiting period.
Ironically, restrictions on felons voting is only considered distriminatory if the legislative record demonstrates a discriminatory intent. A wink and a nod don’t count.

Report this

By Conservative Yankee, February 7, 2008 at 7:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i,Q, February 6 at 11:13 pm

In fact, The United States has the highest prison
population rate in the world, some 714 per 100,000
of the national population, followed by Belarus,
Bermuda and Russia (all 532), Palau (523), U.S.
Virgin Islands (490), Turkmenistan (489), Cuba
(487), Suriname (437), Cayman Islands (429), Belize
(420), Ukraine (417), Maldive Islands (416), St Kitts
and Nevis (415), South Africa (413) and Bahamas

Additionally, The US dose not count juveniles under 18, who are serving their time in juvenile facilities. 

By driving bear, February 6 at 6:45 pm

I would agree, EXCEPT there is a disparity in the “class” of crime. While holding a single hit of
cocaine is a misdemeanor, holding a vile of Crack is a felony.  Crack is for po folk, and cocaine is used among the Wall Street set. There are a number of such contradictions, and until we stop sentencing folks by class and income, I would restore all rights after time is completed.

farmertx, February 6 at 6:45 pm

I agree, this is the worst slate of candidates I have seen in my lifetime (both parties) and once again it appears we will have a self-serving corporate whore, beholding to a number of contributors rather than to voters…. BUT that is our fault!! We should be ashamed to live on our grandparents fight, and I’m not talking about foreign wars, I’m speaking about Bread and Roses (Lawrence MA) Harlan County, and Scranton PA. They fought and died so we could have a weekend off, and a safer workplace. We’ve gotten fat and lazy, and we’re now going to pay for that lapse Maybe this time we’ll learn… I doubt it!

By ocjim, February 6 at 8:15 pm #

Disenfranchisement is Common

Man are you on target, and when we make it a racial issue or a gender issue it gets worse.  In Lawrence Mass The polling places were inaccessible to folks by mass transit. Folks without a car had to walk as much as 2 miles, or take a cab. because this was a poor city, people just didn’t bother.  There are still places where the polls are closed before the second shift ends.  To be truly democratic polls should be open at least 24 hours. 

By JohnD, February 6 at 9:23 pm #

“The vote would seem a natural part of rejoining society ...”

Maybe, if the goal was “correction” rather than punishment.  Given the choice, US citizens would rather punish than correct.

Report this

By jackpine savage, February 7, 2008 at 6:09 am Link to this comment

Felons lose their “right” to vote…but voting isn’t a right, it is a responsibility.  The only crime that i would consider worthy of legal disenfranchisement is treason.  Though i can understand suspending voting while someone is in prison; on the other hand, those would be the most interesting exit polls on the network…

“Back to you, Bob, and you know the old saying, as the prisons go, so goes the nation.”

Considering that we imprison more drug offenders than the entire prison population of the EU, it smacks of socio-economic warfare more than anything else.

Report this

By Aegrus, February 7, 2008 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

This does bring up an important question. Is America ready to forgive ex-convicts?

We have a history with our criminal justice system, which is not pretty. However valid Amy’s opinion is (and let us be continually grateful she exists to offer such important social commentary), it doesn’t seem likely that we will begin to forgive criminals after they have “paid their debt to society.” Capital punishment speaks to the heart of many people’s opinion on those who have broken the law. Many Americans dehumanize and devalue those who are incarcerated.

This is why we have no reform, this is why our prisons are a revolving door and this is why many of our youth have their lives and American opportunities destroyed before they are even old enough to comprehend who they are.

It’s very wrong and upsetting to hear people talk about America being a beacon of light when we have no compassion for our own.

Report this

By mddemocracy, February 7, 2008 at 5:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As someone who led a coalition that changed Maryland’s draconian felon disenfranchisement laws in 2007, I applaud anyone who understands that the real issue is about democracy and fairness. And as someone who became the first former felon to register to vote under Maryland’s new law, when I vote next Tuesday, I will vote because it is my right to do so.

Report this

By drw3344, February 7, 2008 at 4:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We have several different grass roots organizing projects each Presidential cycle. I think we should add this issue. In some states ex felons have the right to vote and they either do not know it or do not know how the procedure works to get re-enfranchised. For example, in Florida in 2000 the Fla Supreme Court ordered Jeb Bush to stop putting out false information-that a felon had to receive specific permission to vote from the governor’s office-and he refused to do so. Let’s get organized nationally, state by state and help these people vote.
Another issue-what about getting organized to assist minorities, students and the ederly get their gov’t I.D.‘s for states like Indiana?

Report this
davidbdr's avatar

By davidbdr, February 7, 2008 at 1:08 am Link to this comment

It would seem to me that once a person served time, was paroled and released from probation that all rights must be restored. Anything else is continued penalties after sentence served. How that is soft on crime I can’t fathom.

Report this

By i,Q, February 6, 2008 at 11:13 pm Link to this comment

We have more prisoners here in the “land of the free” than any other civilized country besides perhaps China, so it makes me wonder, can all of these people be dangerous psychopaths who will undermine our so-called moral fabric? Or are we a society which legislates punitive solutions to every problem we come to face? There is a broad spectrum of felony charges that span the wide spectrum from growing dope to forgery to involuntary manslaughter to first degree murder. Surely there is a middle ground where we could be a little more constructive than to say stick ‘em in a box and shut ‘em up. But then again, we are the society which re-elects war criminals, liars, and felons, so i should be used to double standards by now.

Report this

By i,Q, February 6, 2008 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment

i have a very good friend who is on parole and cannot vote. This is sad because he is smart, interested, and fully reformed. His parole doesn’t end until after the election. He made a mistake as a very young man, and he did “do the time,“i don’t know why some people have to be so vindictive. We all are Americans, and we all deserve a voice.

Now, let’s talk about taking away the voice of the current administration… i’m all for that.

ps. i think that Amy wrote an article about one thing, and some posters want an article about another thing. Maybe someone will write an article about other things, and then you will have that article to add comments to. It’s not Amy’s fault that she didn’t write about what you wanted to hear about.

Report this

By JohnD, February 6, 2008 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment

The vote would seem a natural part of rejoining society once a convict’s sentence is complete. Similar to paying taxes, looking for work, etc.

Report this

By ocjim, February 6, 2008 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

Amy,when you really analyze our election system, disenfranchisement is much more widespread than you think. We all stood by and watched when 60% of Floridians voted in vain for Republican candidates other than McCain. One hundred percent of Democrats vote did not count because of a squabble between the DNC and Florida.
  Other disenfranchisements are part of the system:
Many election practices have not been reviewed or challenged even though many states and national political parties have made moves which disenfranchise voters.
  Democrat voters in two states, Michigan and Florida, states representing over 8% of electoral college votes, were disenfranchised due to a disagreement over primary dates between these states and the Democratic National Committee. There is no indication that this will be challenged in the courts.
  For many Republican primaries, anyone voting for the loser is also – in effect – disenfranchised. For Republicans, it’s winner take all in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Missouri, and Arizona. So with 36% of the Florida vote, McCain got all 57 delegates. With a combined 60% of the vote for Romney, Guiliani, and Huckabee, these candidates got zilch for their efforts.
  After our 2004 presidential election, Brigalia Bam, a member of an international delegation that observed the U.S. presidential election, told that America is due for a civic makeover. She said the maybe South Africa, one of the world’s newest democracies, can help it learn how to do that.
  Ohio in 2004 was a prime example of this. The man in charge of the counting was Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush’s re-election committee. As Ohio’s secretary of state, Blackwell had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws—setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts. He was even involved as electoral system adviser for Bush during the 2000 recount in Florida, which we all know was a fiasco.
  According to a report by Robert Kennedy Jr. in the Rolling Stone in 2006, Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters from either casting their ballots or having their votes counted, and those blocked from voting were most likely to vote for John Kerry. According to Kennedy’s article, they were more than enough for Kerry to win in Ohio and thus the election.
  In a 2005 report, the American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund (ACVR) presented what it called a comprehensive and authoritative review regarding vote fraud, intimidation and suppression made during the 2004 presidential election.
It named five major cities in Ohio, Washington, Missouri, and Pennsylvania where fraud, intimidation and suppression occurred under the blessing of both political parties.
  In spite of the ACVR’s appeal to Congress to begin correcting voting abuses, little has been done by politicians of either party.
  We still are dependent in many states on voting machines that can be easily hacked, have no paper trail, and have frequent failures. We still have the electoral college system which can give the election to a candidate with a minority of the popular vote, something we saw in the 2000 election, with the Florida vote contested but a recount rejected by the Supreme Court.
  The system, as Bam pointed out is convoluted, not transparent, and chaotically managed by politicians in too many states.
  The candidates with access are quite often family dynasties with influence and money. The sway of lobbyists, and now the media, still insures the influence of power and money in decision-making at the top.
  As Brigalia Bam suggested, we could learn a lot from South Africa, one of the world’s newest democracies, if we would only listen.

Report this
farmertx's avatar

By farmertx, February 6, 2008 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

This is a problem, no doubt. But what of the many millions of otherwise qualified voter’s who are left to choose between the lesser of two evils? Or vote for a candidate who has no chance of winning?
When you start talking about getting rid of the Special Interest Money that decides who will be a viable candidate by really reforming the Campaign Contribution Laws, then we will get closer to a solution.
Kucinch, Gravel and Richardson had no real chance. Ron Paul is hanging in there, sure to run a strong last.
Qualified voter’s stay away in droves, many because they see the hopelessness of the situation and some out of sheer laziness or ignorance of the issues.
But until we unite and demand better of the politicians, we will continue to choose between the lesser of two evils. And the margin of difference is shrinking every election.

Report this
driving bear's avatar

By driving bear, February 6, 2008 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

as the old saying goes if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime. Ms Goodman time would be better spent speaking to young people and pointing out that the loss of voting rights is a punishment you will receive if you commit a crime. just more of your standard soft on crime / criminals talk

Report this
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network

Like Truthdig on Facebook