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February 3, 2012

Disenfranchisement News

Kentucky: Editorial: Kentucky should reform felony disenfranchisement laws

Minnesota: Task force investigating changes to voting rights laws

Virginia: Governor McDonnell and rights restoration

National: National Reentry Resource Center provides information on voting restoration

National: Law journal analyzes de facto permanent disenfranchisement

National: Essay examines race and partisanship in disenfranchisement

Editorial: Kentucky should reform felony disenfranchisement laws

An editorial in the Courier-Journal argues in support of proposed Kentucky House Bill
70, which would amend the constitution to “allow persons convicted of a felony other
than treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery the right to vote after expiration of
probation, final discharge from parole, or maximum expiration of sentence.” Currently,
Kentucky is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchises all persons
convicted of felonies, with the only recourse to restoring one’s voting rights being a
decision by the Governor. The editorial contends that the citizens of Kentucky should be
able to decide on whether formerly incarcerated persons should be able to vote and that
receiving relief from the Governor as the sole path to restoration of one’s voting rights “is
unfair and onerous.”

An editorial in the Courier-Journal argues in support of proposed Kentucky House Bill 70, which would amend the constitution to “allow persons convicted of a felony other than treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery the right to vote after expiration of probation, final discharge from parole, or maximum expiration of sentence.” Currently, Kentucky is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchises all persons convicted of felonies, with the only recourse to restoring one’s voting rights being a decision by the Governor. The editorial contends that the citizens of Kentucky should be able to decide on whether formerly incarcerated persons should be able to vote and that receiving relief from the Governor as the sole path to restoration of one’s voting rights “is unfair and onerous.”

 

Task force investigating changes to voting rights laws

 

KARE11 reports that Minnesota Governor Dayton’s Election Integrity Task Force is looking into whether the state should switch to the felony disenfranchisement system used by North Dakota, where voting rights are restored immediately upon release from prison. Currently, in Minnesota, voting rights are not restored until convicted persons have completed parole. In its first report to the Governor, the Task Force recommended several amendments to the state’s voting laws, including improving the system of notifying persons that their voting rights have been restored.

 

Governor McDonnell and rights restoration

 

The Washington Times and the PilotOnline report on Virginia Governor McDonnell’s efforts to ease voting restrictions on formerly incarcerated persons. In his first two years in office, Governor McDonnell, a Republican, has restored voting rights to over 2,500 persons with felony convictions, putting him on pace to surpass the numbers by his Democratic predecessors. “We’re a nation of second chances,” said Governor McDonnell. “Everybody makes mistakes. But if you want to fix your problem and be a productive citizen, we want to help.”

 

Despite Governor McDonnell’s willingness to restore voting rights, Virginia still has one of the most restrictive policies on the books. Only three other states permanently disenfranchise people convicted of felonies. According to Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project, Governor McDonnell’s record of restoring voting rights is “encouraging…But given the scale of the issue, that’s still pretty modest.”

 

 

National Reentry Resource Center provides information on voting restoration

 

The National Reentry Resource Center provides a number of informational pieces – “mythbusters” – on reentry, including one on voting laws for persons with felony convictions. The guide presents the myth – that persons with felony convictions cannot vote – and the fact – that while almost all states disenfranchise people with felony convictions for some time, they all have a restoration process. The guide then details the various disenfranchisement laws in each state.

 

 

Law journal analyzes de facto permanent disenfranchisement

 

"Documenting Disenfranchisement," by law professor Jessie Allen, appearing in the Tulane Law Review, argues that, despite permanent disenfranchisement only being lawful in four states, “administrative practices sometimes transform temporary voting bans into lifelong disenfranchisement.” Allen claims that this de facto permanent disenfranchisement has political, legal, and cultural implications. Politically, it challenges the “comforting story” that state reforms have in some way dismantled the connection between felony disenfranchisement and racially disparate imprisonment numbers. Legally, it calls into question “the doctrinal impenetrability of a United States Supreme Court decision that has long blocked federal challenges to voting bans based on criminal conviction.” Culturally, it exposes what the author calls “documentary disenfranchisement,” the process of election officials demanding nonexistent eligibility requirements from persons with convictions. This results in de facto permanent disenfranchisement.

 

 

Essay examines race and partisanship in disenfranchisement

 

In a book chapter, Race and Partisanship in Criminal Disfranchisement Laws: Antecedents of the 2000 Election Controversy in Florida, Pippa Holloway of Middle Tennessee State University, examines court challenges to criminal disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the early twentieth century. The chapter looks at the attempts by three African-American men to challenge their wrongful disenfranchisement because of criminal convictions. The first, Cornelius "Canary" Curtis, was disenfranchised in 1907 in Tennessee for a larceny conviction. After two unsuccessful attempts at having his rights restored by local courts, he brought his case to the Tennessee Court of Civil Appeals, which ruled in his favor. The second case Holloway describes is of Henry Lucas and Johns Sullivan, just two of the many African-Americans who were disenfranchised in St. Louis, Missouri in 1916 because of false accusations of criminal convictions. Local Democratic party officials had conducted a targeted campaign at disenfranchising African-American voters and after the election, Lucas and Sullivan filed civil suits against several Democratic party members.

 

 

 

 

Issue Area(s): Felony Disenfranchisement