Racial Disparity News
June 12, 2013 (The Daily Iowan)
End the Disparity
An editorial in the Daily Iowan of the University of Iowa calls on its state legislators to eliminate racial disparities in marijuana arrests.
It notes that Iowa ranks “worst in the nation in the ethnic disparity of marijuana arrests, with the state’s African Americans more than eight times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for possession “despite equal usage.
“The editorial board is astonished that the highest disparity rates in America still exist in Iowa, a state that has traditionally led the nation in matters of civil rights, civil liberties, and equality.
June 6, 2013 (The Huffington Post)
The Missing Black Voters
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, and Christopher Uggen, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, write that a new Census Bureau report highlights a significant milestone in electoral participation, finding that in the 2012 election African Americans voted at a higher rate than whites for the first time. The two point black margin of 66 percent vs. 64 percent represents a sharp shift from the nearly 8 point white margin in 1996. While this shift in turnout is intriguing, it actually downplays the scale of change.
Unaccounted in the Census Bureau estimates are the 5.8 million adults who are ineligible to vote due to a current or previous felony conviction. All but two states (Maine and Vermont) take away the right to vote for a period of time after a felony conviction. In 48 states, prisoners are ineligible to vote, in 35 of these states persons also cannot vote on probation and/or parole, and in 12 states citizens may lose their voting rights even after they have completed their sentence.
Racial disparities in the criminal justice system translate into much higher rates of disenfranchisement for African Americans relative to other groups. Factoring these uncounted lost voters in to the black population produces a turnout figure up to 72 percent of the eligible adult population.
June 3, 2013 (The Washington Post)
Disenfranchised: A stain on Virginia’s democracy!
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell took office admirably determined to change a scandalously antiquated system by which the state has deprived several hundred thousand felons of their voting rights — permanently. To his credit, he’s done a better job than any of his predecessors at restoring the vote for former offenders who have served their sentences.
But measured against the problem, the governor’s efforts have amounted to little. Given that more than half of the state’s prison population is African American, the result is a stain on the state’s democracy.
The essential problem is a provision in the state’s constitution, reaffirmed by racist lawmakers more than a century ago, that deprives felons of the vote unless their rights are individually restored by the governor. Only Florida, Iowa and Kentucky are as punitive.
June 3, 2013 (The New York Times)
Restoring the Vote in Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia enlarged democracy last Wednesday when he announced an order requiring the automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent offenders who have historically had to fight through a bureaucratic maze to gain access to the polls.
Governor McDonnell’s order, which could cover more than 100,000 people, reflects a growing awareness that disenfranchisement serves no rehabilitative purpose — and may, in fact, contribute to further criminal behavior by forcing former offenders to the margins of society.
In all, nearly six million Americans — about 2.5 percent of the voting-age population — are barred from voting by a confusing patchwork of state laws that strip convicted offenders of the right to vote, often temporarily, but sometimes for life.
May 31, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
Groups Call on Congress to Restore Food Assistance
Last week, the U.S. Senate accepted an amendment to the Farm Bill that would deny food stamps to anyone ever convicted of certain offenses and reduce benefits for the person's household. The hastily considered amendment is unjust, cruel, and counterproductive.