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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Felon Disenfranchisement: Key Component of Voter Suppression

Over at TomPaine.com, Kara Gotsch, advocacy director of The Sentencing Project has an update on what is arguably the GOP’s most powerful tool for voter suppression — felon disenfranchisement. Gotsch sums up the problem succinctly:

…an estimated 5.3 million Americans. Forty-eight states (all but Maine and Vermont) and the District of Columbia prohibit inmates from voting while incarcerated for a felony offense. In 35 states, people on parole also cannot vote. And, in the dozen most regressive states, the right to vote can be permanently denied to people with felony records.

That’s right, a dozen states don’t care if you have served your time and paid your debt to society. You still can’t vote — ever.
Gotsch explains how these laws target African Americans, the most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party:

During the Jim Crow era, disenfranchisement laws in southern states were revised to silence the political voice of newly emancipated slaves. Today, racial disparities in the criminal justice system contribute to dramatic rates of felony disenfranchisement for African Americans. Thirteen percent of black men are disenfranchised and as many as 40 percent of black men are projected to lose their right to vote in states that disenfranchise after completion of sentence….

The 2006 elections have increased momentum for reforms to restore voting rights to ex-felons. Reform legislation has been introduced in 20 states. This is critically important in Florida, where Gotsch notes that one million felons have been disenfranchised for life, thanks in part to the leadership of former Governor Jeb Bush. Reformers are hopeful that the new Republican Governor Charles Crist will rise above partisan concerns and sign an executive order restoring voting rights to hundreds of thousans of Floridians who have served their time.
Democrats increased their strength substantially in the state legislatures and among the governorships in the ’06 elections, and now have an unprecedented opportunity to reinstate voting rights to ex-felons. Strengthening a mass movement to restore voting rights to those who have served their time ought to be a top priority of state Democratic parties in ’07 — a cause that serves justice, as well as their party’s future.

5 comments on “Felon Disenfranchisement: Key Component of Voter Suppression

  1. Deborah Chambers on

    My Former spouse told me “The State is supposed to pay for the boys support and needs- don’t bug me about it!”
    As the mother of two, now grown sons, who had a former spouse become incarcerated immediately following our divorce, his then Temporary Child Support Order was put on hold, NOT ACCRUING interest or anything while he went to prison for 8 years. He had his medical, dental, 3 hots and a cot, recreation access sufficient to build things to sell to other inmates, their families and friends, and had to send NO MONEY to support his children. I was toughing it, working a clerical job, Medicaid, Foodstamps for the boys, yard sales and hand me downs mostly for their church and school clothes. I Pro Se attempted to get an order for Child Support for during those eight years, after I barely (he went for a minimum wage job so as not to pay what was appropriate- $10 job before he went in. Kept getting a crotchety, old goat of a judge, rudely barking, “Ya can’t get money out of someone in jail.” I wanted to see the statute, but nobody would tell me, so when his new bride (married after out 3 months) cried “Abuse”” he was violated on his Probation and messed my upkeep of our sons up, me stressed already, I had to drop out of my Paralegal course at Valencia (started when I was 40, realizing the boys weren’t going to get anything decent with me working clerically) and was hospitalized for Major Depression Recurrent.
    No these guys/gals have not
    PAID THEIR DEBT TO SOCIETY”, not as long as their children have not received their 8 years worth of support, loss of a positive male role model (which he wasn’t anyway!).
    They should assess and Order Child Support in the beginning according to the rate of pay then, let it accrue while they are in, and upon release, give them a fraction of the Child Support Arrearage so as not to “frighten” them, debying freedom in order to avoid their responsibilities returning to jail. The after a year or so of the small percentage, they will mostlikely have accepted a raise, promotion, and they’ve becom aclimated to being FREE & OUTSIDE, their percentage can be increased, they’ll be more likely to pay it than return as before. Shoulf they get their DEBT TO THEIR CHILDREN/Society caught up, paid off, THEN THEY SHOULD RECEIVE SOME RIGHTS, BUT ONLY ON THE CONDITION THEY CONTINUE OR COMPLETE THEIR CHILD SUPPPORT PAYMENTS IN THEIR ENTIRETY. CHILDREN FIRST

  2. Chris Brudy on

    Felon disenfranchisement and DREs are the major reasons why the Republican party maintains so many seats in congress. If ex-felons could have voted on hand counted paper ballots in the 2000 elections, Al Gore would be President and 3100+ dead American soldiers would now be alive. Paper Ballots are needed to break the current minority control of the United States.

  3. Bill R on

    The problem with restoring voter rights for ex-felons is that if Democrats advocate it, then we’re tagged with caring more about criminals than “decent, honest folks” (as the term goes). Because of that, I think Dems should focus only on an automatic restoration of voting rights once someone is completely free of the jucidial system, i.e., they are out of prison and not on parole or probation. The argument for this is much simpler and less politically controversial to make. Sadly, I think it’s the best we can do.

  4. Sydell Stokes on

    Hello, I have friend whose son served time and was paroled. She claims he is inelgible to vote. I say there must be a way. Does someone have some advice??

  5. disgusted on

    I do not understand why a person that has served his time and has been reintroduced to society must be held accountable for a crime paid for. While in jail I can see but once released to society ALL RIGHTS and PRIVLEDGES should be restored.
    That will probably happen now since so many from the bush Crime Family are going to be going to jail and they need these thieves and Liars to operate.
    Just and repukulan move to strip a Real American of participation in the government.


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