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February 11, 2014

"Eric Holder makes case for felons to get voting rights back"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Washington Post report on the latest policy advocacy by the US Attorney General concerning criminal justice reform. Here are the notable details:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday called on states to repeal laws that prohibit ex-felons from voting after their release from prison, urging reforms that could allow millions more former convicts across the country to cast ballots.

In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Holder said: “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.” Current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society, he said.

Holder said that current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society. He pointed to a recent study, which showed that felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote again had a lower recidivism rate. “These restrictions are not only unnecessary and unjust, they are also counterproductive,” Holder said. “By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes.”

Holder does not have the authority to force states to change their laws, but his request could influence the debate to restore voting rights. His appeal is part of a broader effort currently underway by the Justice Department to reform the criminal justice system, which U.S. officials say often treats minority groups unfairly.

The attorney general said that after the Civil War, laws that prohibit ex-felons from voting were a way for post-Reconstruction states to keep blacks from casting ballots. Today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans are not allowed to vote because of current or previous felony convictions. Of those, nearly 38 percent are black.

The Justice Department said that 23 states since 1997 have enacted voting-rights reforms. They include Nebraska, Nevada, Texas and Washington state.

The Justice Department said that 11 states, including Florida and Kentucky, restrict voting rights for ex-felons. Holder said that 10 percent of Florida’s population is disenfranchised.

Voting-rights activists are trying to change the law in that state to make it easier for “returning citizens” to vote. The push could become a campaign issue in Florida’s gubernatorial election this year. In Kentucky, a bill to restore felon voting rights to those not convicted of certain lascivious or violent crimes gained momentum last month in the state legislature. “These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed,” Holder said.

There is even more of note in the full speech given today by AG Eric Holder at Georgetown University Law Center, the text of which is available here. I now have to go teach, so I will not be able to comment further until late tonight, but here are parts of the discussion of voting rights referenced above:

These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed. And so today, I call upon state leaders and other elected officials across the country to pass clear and consistent reforms to restore the voting rights of all who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation, and paid their fines. I call upon experts and legislators to stand together in overturning an unfortunate and outdated status quo.

And I call upon the American people – who overwhelmingly oppose felony disenfranchisement – to join us in bringing about the end of misguided policies that unjustly restrict what’s been called the “most basic right” of American citizenship.

I applaud those who have already shown leadership in raising awareness and helping to address this issue. Later today, this conference will hear from Senator Rand Paul, who has been a leader on this matter. His vocal support for restoring voting rights for former inmates shows that this issue need not break down along partisan lines.

Bipartisan support will be critical going forward because, even in states where reforms are currently taking hold, we need to do even more. And we need to make sure these positive changes are expanded upon – and made permanent.

Some prior related posts:

February 11, 2014 at 02:46 PM | Permalink

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Comments

1. Eric Holder is a Democrat.

2. OK, quick now, which Party will disproportionately benefit if more felons vote?

3. Still, I'm sure it's a Matter of High Principle.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 11, 2014 3:16:08 PM

1. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
2. Quick, what party was more likely to benefit from his support of limited black suffrage in his last speech?
3. It -- like the 15A later -- was not at the time merely a matter of high principle.

But, the Republicans (and most supporters of voting rights for blacks were) were also right on the basic principle. Holder is as well. Historically and practicably, this policy disproportionately burdens people by race and class. Along with other things, it makes it harder to re-integrate back into society. Given the breadth of felonies it is wide-reaching. And, especially when "no longer under federal or state supervision," it simply not good policy.

Some Republicans, including Republican governors, have agreed for various reasons. As adults, we realize politicians and political appointments will have mixed motives. But, on the merits, they are right here.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 11, 2014 3:43:56 PM

OK, quick now, which Party will disproportionately benefit if more felons vote?"

Answer:

The Human Party!

Posted by: albeed | Feb 11, 2014 3:56:21 PM

What do you think, Bill, most AUSAs think about this policy advocacy by AG Holder? Will you or NAAUSA poll them on this front? Just wondering if you think all AUSAs disagree/revolt with Holder in most cases or just a few.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 11, 2014 3:56:52 PM

I think we should take our cue from the European Court of Human Rights and let all individuals vote, even those currently incarcerated. At a minimum, we should stop letting districts count their inmates as part of their population when it comes to electoral votes since I can almost guarantee that the inmates don't share their view when it comes to policy (particularly when it comes to issues like prison overcrowding).

I struggle to find any good argument for disenfranchisement after release (and certainly after all supervision has ended). If the argument is just that it's a punishment - imagine giving up freedom of speech or freedom of religion as solely a punishment. If the argument is just that they can't be trusted to be a good citizen and vote "properly," I think that demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding over what a democracy is.

Posted by: Erik M | Feb 11, 2014 4:43:59 PM

1. Bill Otis is a Republican.

2. OK, quick now, which Party will disproportionately benefit if felons cannot vote?

3. Still, I'm sure Bill's opposition to felon enfranchisement is a Matter of High Principle.

Silly silly.

Posted by: Curious | Feb 11, 2014 5:07:09 PM

Doug --

"What do you think, Bill, most AUSAs think about this policy advocacy by AG Holder?"

I have absolutely no idea.

"Will you or NAAUSA poll them on this front?"

I sincerely doubt it. Oh, incidentally, AUSA's are merit hires, not political hires, and for 13 of the last 21 years the hiring has been done by Democratic administrations. Unlike, say, law faculties, AUSA's are probably evenly split as between Democrats and Republicans.

"Just wondering if you think all AUSAs disagree/revolt with Holder in most cases or just a few."

I don't think "all" AUSA's do much of anything, since they're such a large and diverse group. Oh, wait, there is one thing they all do: They get painted by some of your commenters as Satan's spawn.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 11, 2014 5:12:31 PM

Erik M --

"I think we should take our cue from the European Court of Human Rights and let all individuals vote, even those currently incarcerated."

I think we should take our cue from the Chicago Registrar and let all individuals vote, even those currently dead.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 11, 2014 5:15:28 PM

Curious --

You need to find a new alias. You're one of the least curious people on this forum.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 11, 2014 5:17:37 PM

Aw, Bill, that's not fair. I actually think you were the one lacking in curiosity when you immediately attributed AG Holder's position on this issue to pure political calculation, rather than taking him on on the merits (I'm sure you have a worthy argument on that point, I'm sad you didn't share it). Indeed, you provide no evidence for your contention that AG Holder doesn't sincerely believe in what he said on felon enfranchisement. I was trying to show you how silly (and intellectually lazy) your argument was, since it can just as easily be turned around and used to delegitimize your own position.

Posted by: Curious | Feb 11, 2014 5:26:37 PM

I'd also add that I've only posted under this alias...two or three times, in a post awhile back about drug use in the early 20th century. I wonder why you felt the need to resort so quickly to a (pretty clearly unfounded) personal attack. Civility is important!

Posted by: Curious | Feb 11, 2014 5:30:26 PM

Whatever else may be said on this issue, the statement "these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes" is probably the stupidest thing said by any high federal officeholder since "We have to pass this bill so you can find out what is in it."

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 11, 2014 6:40:17 PM

Holder cited various reasons why the policy is wrong. It is far from "stupid" to cite as one thing that denying people basic aspects of citizenship leads to a sense of not being a member of the community and -- along with other things -- pushing people to be less inclined to follow the community's norms. He didn't even say that. He said "increase the likelihood."

Intelligent professionals relying at exaggerations and petty partisan potshots really just suggests that side has nothing. They don't, but that's really the message that sends. It is not the stupidest thing, but it isn't that smart.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 11, 2014 7:43:06 PM

Curious --

"I'd also add that I've only posted under this alias...two or three times, in a post awhile back about drug use in the early 20th century."

And how many times have you posted under other aliases? What were they? Why use any at all? Why not step up?

"I wonder why you felt the need to resort so quickly to a (pretty clearly unfounded) personal attack."

What are you talking about? Saying that you use an alias is simply a statement of fact.

"Civility is important!"

Too bad you neglected to chime in with that sentiment when Kent Scheidegger was called a Nazi, federalist was called a fascist, and I was called a bloodluster, racist and sadist.

Maybe you don't really think civility is all that important, eh?

And, as I was saying, you have no detectable curiosity.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 11, 2014 11:19:18 PM

This is a local, not a Federal issue. Holder (and Paul) needs to stop interfering in matters that are not of his concern.

I am sure that "small government" Douglas Berman agrees with me.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 12, 2014 9:11:05 AM

Bill,

I'm not sure what any of that has to do with:

(1) Your failure to provide any evidence to support your assertion that AG Holder does not sincerely believe in the merits of his argument on felon enfranchisement, but instead is driven by crass political calculations (still waiting on any response to that at all, in fact), or
(2) Your claim that I am uncurious, despite the fact that I've only ever posted on this blog three times prior to this thread.

I totally agree with you that the name-calling is uncivil and beneath the dignity of this blog. Its a shame that, as revealed in this exchange, you are sometimes part of the problem. I'd never intervened before because I think its beneath my dignity too, but I had to say something this time because the incivility was directed at me!

As for the fact that I post under an alias, I'm still an up-and-coming lawyer and so prefer to remain anonymous. Once I'm as established and as successful as you are, I will reveal my true identity to the world, Spiderman style!

Posted by: Curious | Feb 12, 2014 9:43:13 AM

"This is a local, not a Federal issue."

Voting is a constitutional right and as applied here it has discriminatory aspects that also is a constitutional concern. Crime itself is not something that somehow stays local. To the degree Paul and others wish to address gun rights, that too is a constitutional right. What other part of the Constitution is merely local? Are free speech rights now merely local?

Posted by: Joe | Feb 12, 2014 10:10:58 AM

TarlsQtr, I am not sure why you think voting for federal officials is "a local, not a Federal issue." Can you explain this?

I agree that the feds should not tell localities how it should run local elections for local officials, but I have long thought it peculiar that local/state laws control who and how voters cast votes for federal officials. After all, local/state laws do not control or limit how federal prosecutors or federal judges apply and interpret federal laws.

More broadly, the primary reason I favor "small government" is because I fear the concentration of power/violence in government (or elsewhere). Democracy tends to decentralize power by putting it in the hands of voters AND the more who can vote means greater decentralization of power. Ergo, I tend to favor expanding the franchise as much as possible -- e.g., I think even incarcerated offenders should have the right to vote. (On another front, I would like the voting age set at whatever age a state uses for bringing juves into the adult criminal justice system: if a state thinks a 16-year-old can/should be held responsible like an adult, it should also give persons that age voting rights.)

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 12, 2014 10:46:40 AM

Doug stated: "TarlsQtr, I am not sure why you think voting for federal officials is "a local, not a Federal issue." Can you explain this?"

Other than the specific requirements laid out in the constitution, voting procedures are determined at the local level. This is another case of the Federal government trying to exert undue influence on local decisions. I would not be surprised if Federal money was not tied to allowing felons to vote at some point in the future.

You stated: "I agree that the feds should not tell localities how it should run local elections for local officials, but I have long thought it peculiar that local/state laws control who and how voters cast votes for federal officials. After all, local/state laws do not control or limit how federal prosecutors or federal judges apply and interpret federal laws."

"Peculiar" is different than "wrong" or "illegal." I would be silent about Obama's lawless changes to Obamacare if they were merely "peculiar." Unfortunately, they are illegal, making his comments at Monticello yesterday even more sadly ironic.

Doug stated: "More broadly, the primary reason I favor "small government" is because I fear the concentration of power/violence in government (or elsewhere)."

So, you are for the severe curtailing, perhaps even abolishment, of Federal departments/agencies such as HUD, DoEnergy, DoEducation, the IRS, the EPA, DoInterior, etc? There is a lot of "concentrated power" there, right?

You stated: "Ergo, I tend to favor expanding the franchise as much as possible -- e.g., I think even incarcerated offenders should have the right to vote. (On another front, I would like the voting age set at whatever age a state uses for bringing juves into the adult criminal justice system: if a state thinks a 16-year-old can/should be held responsible like an adult, it should also give persons that age voting rights.)"

I am agnostic on the topic itself and see it strictly as a local issue. It is clearly constitutional per Article 2 of the 14th Amendment and the fact that it has been around in this country since the time of our founders. Kentucky has had criminal disenfranchisement written into its constitution since 1792 and it has been in Western Civilization since at least the Romans.

I had a hearty guffaw, however, at another poster's comment that this is not the result of a purely political motive. If Holder cared one iota about best integrating people (especially minorities) into communities, he would stop the DOJ's vile obstruction of Louisiana school vouchers, a program that could actually help people never even become a felon.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 12, 2014 11:19:35 AM

Joe stated: "Voting is a constitutional right and as applied here it has discriminatory aspects that also is a constitutional concern."

Please show me the discrimination included in this law. Kentucky has had felon disenfranchisement since 1792, when there were probably 3 African-Americans in the entire state. Are only black or women felons being disenfranchised? If so, what is your evidence?

It is NOT a Constitutional concern. Article 2 of the 14th Amendment makes this perfectly clear.

You stated: "Crime itself is not something that somehow stays local. To the degree Paul and others wish to address gun rights, that too is a constitutional right."

There are no constitutional limits to the right to "bear arms" as written, while the document expressly limits the right to vote. You, and Paul, are not even comparing apples to oranges, you are comparing apples to sofas.

You stated: "What other part of the Constitution is merely local? Are free speech rights now merely local?"

Another right that is not written with any limits. Apples to sofas again.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 12, 2014 11:28:19 AM

Please show me the discrimination included in this law. Kentucky has had felon disenfranchisement since 1792, when there were probably 3 African-Americans in the entire state. Are only black or women felons being disenfranchised? If so, what is your evidence?

The statement talks about "states" so don't know why you are talking about "this law" specifically. Whatever Kentucky did, later it is clear that felon disenfranchisement laws repeatedly were particularly racial in nature. Also, as I noted, it also has class discrimination implications. I'm sorry. A single blog comment is not a place to put "evidence" for which articles and books have been written to address. But, if desired, "The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States," is a good place to start to obtain some of the "evidence" of this sort of thing.

It is NOT a Constitutional concern. Article 2 of the 14th Amendment makes this perfectly clear.

Section (sic) 2 notes that a never used means to address disenfranchisment mechanisms by states does not apply to those limitations applied to those who commit crimes. This doesn't suddenly make it not a constitutional concern at all in any case. The Supreme Court itself noted this in Hunter v. Underwood. This beyond that imho Richardson v. Ramirez was wrongly decided.

There are no constitutional limits to the right to "bear arms" as written, while the document expressly limits the right to vote. You, and Paul, are not even comparing apples to oranges, you are comparing apples to sofas.

The "limit" you referenced above concerns congressional power to limit state delegations to the House of Representatives. It does not mean that the Equal Protection Clause or other amendments do not apply when invidious felony disenfrancishment laws are in place. A unanimous opinion by Justice Rehnquist so held. Voting is a "fundamental right" and moving past a never used congressional authorization it cannot be denied as a federal ... national ... constitutional matter w/o due care being given. You can debate the merits, but it is a national concern. Meanwhile, it has always been the case that the "written" terms of the 2A allow more regulations for felons and other groups, who in some cases can be limited in ways others cannot be. In both cases, it is a national constitutional concern.

Another right that is not written with any limits. Apples to sofas again.

Free speech, like RKBA, is not absolute. It is like voting a constitutional right. It is a national concern. We have to look at the merits of each case. Apples to apples.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 12, 2014 12:14:23 PM

One more thing. Just caught this.

"3 African-Americans"

According to "Race to the Frontier: "White Flight" and Westward Expansion," that is under-counting by about 12,500. Perhaps, you mean free blacks or blacks with some right to vote. Given numbers in other states at the time, three as to the first is probably rather too little too. As to the latter, yes, few blacks at the time could vote, but they could a few places. The racial issue was more salient, obviously, after the 15A.

I also would note that "discrimination" here means any wrongful deprivation of rights involving some group. Race/class is a particular concern here, but if a rich white person is wrongly denied voting rights, s/he is discriminated against as well.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 12, 2014 12:25:25 PM

Curious --

"I'm not sure what any of that has to do with: (1) Your failure to provide any evidence to support your assertion that AG Holder does not sincerely believe in the merits of his argument on felon enfranchisement, but instead is driven by crass political calculations..."

The reason you're unsure is that you're stuck on a false dichotomy. I have little doubt Holder believes what he's saying. I have even less doubt that his decision to push the issue is driven by political considerations. If you really think that what the AG decides to talk about in his public addresses is not heavily influenced by politics, you have a long way to go in this line of work. (Of course I don't think you believe that at all).

"(2) Your claim that I am uncurious, despite the fact that I've only ever posted on this blog three times prior to this thread."

Which is itself evidence of lack of curiosity. One can learn a lot by asking questions on this blog. I, for example, have learned that AUSA's routinely threaten/bully innocent defendants into pleading guilty to major felonies by the prospect of MM sentencing.

I mean, they do do that, right?

Of course the main thing indicating your lack of curiosity was your automatically leaping to the AG's defense by implying that political motives couldn't possibly coexist with sincere beliefs, then saying that I had to choose one or the other.

You're quite over on the pro-defense side, aren't you?

"I totally agree with you that the name-calling is uncivil and beneath the dignity of this blog. Its a shame that, as revealed in this exchange, you are sometimes part of the problem."

You have yet to specify one word I've said to you that is uncivil (as opposed to disagreeing with your Holder-is-as-pure-as-the-driven-snow conclusions).

And somehow I just have to suspect that the reason you didn't object to the grossly and obviously uncivil things that were said before is that they were directed to conservatives, which is OK, because conservatives are vermin and don't deserve to be treated with adult manners.

"As for the fact that I post under an alias, I'm still an up-and-coming lawyer and so prefer to remain anonymous."

Non sequitur. To the contrary, an up-and-coming lawyer should be eager to establish his advocacy credentials on a widely read blog like this.

"Once I'm as established and as successful as you are, I will reveal my true identity to the world, Spiderman style!"

Ha! Good one. But I'm hardly the one you should seek to emulate. I'm a po' country lawyer currently in self-exile thousands of miles away from the East Coast.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2014 12:33:32 PM

Tarls, I am generally very skeptical of federal tax moneys spend on local/state matters like schooling and housing and crime, though other matters are distinctly of federal concern like defense, terrorism, the national environment and federal taxes. Ergo, concentrated/growth of powers in federal departments of Education, Housing and Crime/Justice (DOJ, DEA, ATF) concern me a lot, where as growth in departments of defense, NSA, EPA and IRS concern me less. And, most worrisome, both Rs and Ds at the federal level seems to promote federal growth across the board with laws like No Child Left Behind and the Adam Walsh Act and the Affordable Care Act etc.

Now I have answered your question, I hope you will try again to explain why you think voting in federal elections for federal officials is purely a local concern. Again, I do think voting for local/state laws/official is a local/state matter -- e.g., Alaska is going to have its state vote on state marijuana reform on Aug 19, 2014 and I do not think the feds have any reason to be involved in that timing/content of that voting process. But would it be okay as a matter of just local concern for Alaska to decide on its own that it wants to start voting for Prez in 2016 also to start on Aug 19, 2014? I certainly could imagine a blue state run by hard core Clinton partisans wanting to get 2016 Prez voting going now, as that would surely favor Hillary Clinton over all other Ds and Rs. Are you saying this is purely a local matter and a locality should be able to run its federal elections any which way should be able to do so without any federal involvement or even input?

Key point here: the issue we are discussion is not the policy of whether felons should be able to vote in federal elections, but rather who should be involved in policy discussions about whether felons should be able to vote in federal elections. I think this is a matter of federal concern and thus justly something Senator Paul and AG Holder should discuss.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 12, 2014 12:40:11 PM

I am not certain what the Reconstruction period has to do with 2014. I own rope now, even though it was an incredibly racist instrument 150 years ago.

If it impacts more blacks now it is likely because a higher percentage of blacks are felons, not because the people of Kentucky do not want blacks to vote.

I understand that the 14th Amendment was not written to supercede the EPC. My point was that an argument cannot be made that felony disenfranchisement is inherently unconstitutional. Something else has to occur (e.g. a proven intent to discriminate against current would be voters), which is a claim you have yet to provide any evidence for.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 12, 2014 12:49:42 PM

I'm on board with Holder's proposal, as long as he also is on board with taking responsibility for the coverup of a murder of a border agent, or taking legal action against states who pass their own voting ID laws, etc., etc.

Ironically, I do agree the ex-felons off probation/parole should vote, but just like illegal immigration and the border, we should fix the outlandish, out of control voting procedures FIRST before this happens.

Interesting comment made earlier correlated voter representation to those not eligible to vote. Ostensibly, this would mean that representation is represented by a populace that skews to the right, so of course partisanship comes into play. What a mess.

Hurry up and bring the Article 5 Amendment Convention already!!

Posted by: Eric Knight | Feb 12, 2014 1:57:53 PM

Doug,

You desire to upset the status quo, so I believe the following question is the one that logically needs to be answered first.

On what legal basis does the Federal government have the right to take Federal elections away from local jurisdictions?

That is what you are proposing, correct?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 12, 2014 2:30:21 PM

"I'm on board with Holder's proposal, as long as he also is on board with taking responsibility for the coverup of a murder of a border agent, or taking legal action against states who pass their own voting ID laws, etc., etc."

I don't know enough about the first matter & it is a non sequitur to a discussion on voting. The second is curious too -- federal voting rights laws involve preclearance (found wanting by the USSC) and litigation when state laws in certain areas are found discriminatory. Certain voter id laws have been found to fit this test, including by certain courts. What 'responsibility' should he take?


Posted by: Joe | Feb 12, 2014 4:10:59 PM

As I understand it, adults have the right to vote unless there is some compelling reason to withdraw that right. What is the reason for disenfranchising adults who have committed a felony? That should be the point of this discussion.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Feb 12, 2014 5:09:02 PM

Tom McGee --

I suppose I should no longer be surprised that, when an issue gets discussed here (e.g., prosecutors' plea bargaining tactics) the governing Supreme Court case never gets mentioned, except by me (Bordenkircher).

For the present topic, this is the case you need to read: RICHARDSON v. RAMIREZ, 418 U.S. 24 (1974), available here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=418&invol=24

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2014 6:14:26 PM

Bill Otis--

As a correctional administrator, I learned a long time ago never to ask a lawyer what I should do. Rather, decide what one should do in order to accomplish the goal, which in this case is to sustain social order. Then if you wish, ask as a lawyer if he or she sees a legal reason why one should not proceed. In this case the right thing to do is facilitate responsible citizenship, which includes suffrage.

Just for the record, I have done that many times with respect to offenders, I think for the better.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Feb 12, 2014 8:05:18 PM

As I noted, I find the dissent in Ramirez more convincing. In part:

As the Secretary of State of California observed in his memorandum to the Court in support of respondents in this case:

"It is doubtful . . . whether the state can demonstrate either a compelling or rational policy interest in denying former felons the right to vote. The individuals involved in the present case are persons who have fully paid their debt to society. They are as much affected by the actions of government as any other citizens, and have as much of a right to participate in governmental decision-making. Furthermore, the denial of the right to vote to such persons is a hindrance to the efforts of society to rehabilitate former felons and convert them into law-abiding and productive citizens."

This would be the SOS in the early 1970s. Reference made to suffrage of actual prisons, which is allowed a few places (and in various countries). Not what Holder is talking about, I think, but on balance, the reasoning in that dissent holds. One concern might be that if you have the right to vote in local elections, a prison might be the dominant population of the area, and they would outvote the non-prisoners. You can deal with that in various ways, including using their original address as their "home" address -- felons usually are imprisoned far away from that. Others might argue actual prisoners should be denied their right to vote. OTOH, they retain various rights and as a matter of public policy, allowing prisoners to vote for members of Congress etc. (insert joke here) seems useful in various cases.

Tom McGee's level-headness is appreciated and I welcome his professional opinion.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 12, 2014 9:21:36 PM

Tom McGee is right. SCOTUS said states CAN forbid felons from voting but that doesn't mean they should. The habit of viewing everything through a partisan lens skews these debates. Texas is a red state and felons' voting rights are restored here as soon as their sentence is completed. Any partisan advantage would be marginal.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 13, 2014 5:06:12 PM

I received two DUI's within 2 months and ended up spending a year in county jail. While I was there I got to see corruption first hand. Don't get me wrong I needed to sober up and did - it has been almost 3 years since I had a drink. While I was in Jail I learned how both country jail and prison are big business. The meals on average couldn't have cost more then 25 cents of food per tray, but the taxpayer was charged over a dollar. It was also beneficial to starve the inmates that way they would buy more commissaries (junk food, and hygiene items that are usually priced double or triple what the normal cost on the outside would be) and of course there was a company poised to collect all that loot and they did. Rehabilitation was also a racket (While I completed rehab successfully) I noticed that they were keeping people way longer then they should (this was a specific program put together by the county and a local rehab where the rehab got paid by attendance not success). I saw a guy who spent a year there and he had not went back to drinking and drugging, but every time he showed up the rehab got paid with county tax payer dollars. The success rate was abysmal, and I ended up transferring to another rehab where I successfully completed the program in two or three months. Finally I learned that no matter if you served your time, paid your fines and stayed out of trouble there is a prevailing attitude in the US that anyone who commits a crime is never really forgiven. I have found this out trying to find a job. Probation was supposed to "help me," they have been one of the main obstacles standing in my way of employment. At least in my state they don't help, they are actually looking for repeat offenders (you have to keep the factory running if you want to keep that cash coming in). It is time there was an overhaul of the entire prison system in America.

Posted by: Rob | Mar 31, 2014 10:54:35 AM

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