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March 5, 2017

Continuing efforts to unwind felon disenfranchisement in some states

The Wall Street Journal has this notable new article headlined "States Ease Restrictions on Voting by Felons: Florida proposal to lift its lifetime ban would add to a nationwide trend." Here are excerpts:

Mr. Meade is among an estimated 6.1 million felons who have served their time and lost their right to vote, of whom about 1.7 million live in Florida. Virginia, Kentucky and Iowa are the only other states with lifetime voting bans, which can be lifted only through the clemency process. Other states impose waiting periods or require felons to complete parole or probation requirements.

Mr. Meade plans to be in the courtroom Monday when the Florida Supreme Court reviews a proposed constitutional amendment to allow felons, except for murderers and sex offenders, to vote after they finish their sentences, parole and probation. The court will decide whether the measure meets standards to go before voters, provided it gets enough signatures; Mr. Meade, as head of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, is leading the petition drive to put the amendment on the 2018 ballot.

“To be shut out of the democratic process is like a perpetual punishment and slap in the face saying you’re never going to be a citizen,” said Mr. Meade, a 49-year-old father of five. “I paid my debt to society and served my time. Now I should have the opportunity to have my voice heard.”

Since 1997, 23 states have made it easier for people with felony convictions to vote again, according to the Sentencing Project, which advocates an overhaul of crime laws. This year, Nebraska is considering a bill that would eliminate a two-year waiting period.

Critics of automatic restoration of voting rights argue that voting is a responsibility, not a right, and that felons should have to take steps to earn that right after leaving prison. President Donald Trump attacked Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe for using executive orders to restore voting rights to felons after release from prison. “He’s letting criminals cancel out the votes of law-abiding citizens,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Leesburg, Va., the day before his election.

The efforts in Florida and Virginia reflect a nationwide push by criminal-justice activists to alleviate what they call “collateral consequences” of incarceration. In many states, felons released from prison are barred from getting certain occupational licenses, public housing, food stamps and other government assistance. That makes it harder for ex-inmates to get back on their feet, some criminal-justice experts say....

In 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, and his cabinet, relaxed the rules to make it easier for felons to vote after leaving prison. During the former Republican’s one term, more than 155,000 felons regained their voting rights. Mr. Crist is now a Democratic member of Congress.

Beginning in 2011, under current Gov. Rick Scott, with support from state Attorney General Pam Bondi, felons had to wait at least five law-abiding years before applying to a clemency board. Applications for clemency plunged after the board, which includes Mr. Scott and Ms. Bondi, implemented the new wait time. Since Mr. Scott’s election in 2010, 2,487 people with felony convictions have regained access to the polls....

In Kentucky and Iowa, efforts by Democratic governors to make it easier for felons to vote were reversed by their Republican successors.  Many Republicans see restoration of voting rights as a strategy by Democrats to add more African-Americans, who make up a disproportionate share of the prison population, to the voting rolls; Democrats see GOP opposition as tantamount to suppressing the black vote.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R., Fla.), one of the only GOP officials to sign the petition supporting the constitutional amendment, said the issue should transcend partisanship.  After the court decides whether it qualifies for the ballot, the amendment would need roughly 750,000 signatures; to take effect, it needs approval from 60% of voters. “If you can’t give people a way to get back on their feet and become fully active citizens once they’ve served their time, then it’s only a matter of time before they end up back behind bars,” Mr. Curbelo said.

March 5, 2017 at 11:33 PM | Permalink


Criminals are registered Democrats by 3-5 to 1. Enfranchisement is a stealthy way to tilt the stalemated division of the voting public toward the Democratic Party. This tactic is in the same category as having millions of illegal aliens vote, after Obama promised, no DOJ prosecutions of this massive law breaking.

Politifact is a worthless, Democratic Party hate speech, propaganda outlet. Here is its analysis. Even this extremely partisan hate speech Democratic Party partisan group can see that.


Posted by: David Behar | Mar 6, 2017 2:47:14 AM

"Many Republicans see restoration of voting rights as a strategy by Democrats to add more African-Americans, who make up a disproportionate share of the prison population, to the voting rolls; Democrats see GOP opposition as tantamount to suppressing the black vote."

This is a tendentious way of stating the idea that those who violate criminal law should forfeit their power over the rest of us through the ballot box. And why does that proposition become problematic simply because of the demographics of law-breakers?

Democrats love criminals (or at least their votes).

Posted by: federalist | Mar 6, 2017 9:39:55 AM

There was recently an oral argument at SCOTUS regarding a sex offender being blocked from social media. This was deemed in a bipartisan fashion as outrageous, a broad concern for freedom of speech being expressed once someone serves their time.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R., Fla.) thinks this should apply to voting rights too.

I think I see the problem. The provision here has a caveat: "except for murderers and sex offenders, to vote after they finish their sentences, parole and probation."

Sex offenders get more respect on this blog. Take out that exception, which is unfair [especially if the term is as open-ended as it often is], and more "love" will be shown.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 6, 2017 11:34:16 AM

A change in Florida, a perennial swing state, could have a huge impact on future political outcomes in the U.S.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Mar 6, 2017 1:03:38 PM

federalist, I think that proposition is problematic regardless of demographics. I don't see the justification for the majority to define conduct that takes away the ability of the minority to vote to change that definition. The fundamental tenant of democracy is people get to vote on how to govern our lives and you don't get to take away that vote just because you don't like how they'll vote.

Posted by: Erik M | Mar 7, 2017 8:38:48 AM

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