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Fla., Iowa, Va. Should Follow Ala.'s Lead on Ex-Felon Voting Rights

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Follow Bama’s Lead


Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote that it is ironic that convicted felons are often stripped of their voting rights.


However, those same felons are never stripped of the obligation of paying taxes.


Those released prisoners just cannot have a say-so on how their taxes are spent.


Quite simply, refusing to allow some ex-felons to vote is akin to poll taxes, literacy tests and must be struck down as unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


Voting restrictions like not allowing ex-felons to vote is simply a way for the majority population to stop minorities like African-Americans and Latinos from exercising their rights and powers and keeping political power in White hands.


Luckily, states like Alabama are making amends for disenfranchising voters and are trying to return many names to the official voter logs.


All other states that are not doing the same should do so as soon as possible because once a debt is paid, it is paid off and there is no need to hold something like disenfranchisement over the heads of people who often do not get their voices heard anywhere except the ballot box.


According to AL.com, “Alabama state voting rolls show that more than 66,000 convicted felons lost the right to vote under the state’s felony disenfranchisement law, many of whom may now be eligible to regain the right to vote under a new state law.  And a nonprofit is now asking the state to automatically register several thousand former felons who applied but were denied the right to vote.”


In May, Ala. Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill from the state legislature that “defines ambiguous language” about crimes of moral turpitude in the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act.


Getting rid of the previous ambiguous language of moral turpitude reduces the types of convictions that strip ex-convicts of the right to vote, according to AL.com.


A court case is asking that all ex-convicts wrongly removed from the voter rolls be added as soon as possible.


State laws vary, but in Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, while in Florida, Iowa and Virginia, felons and ex-felons lose their voting rights permanently.  In other states, voting rights are eventually restored for many ex-felons.


According to QZ.com, “about 1.5 % of the adult U.S. population, 6.1 million voters, are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.  Because the U.S. disproportionately convicts people of color, this sort of disenfranchisement can have crucial political and social consequences.”


Not allowing that many people to vote, many of which are minorities, affects who is in political office, who sits on the judicial bench and sends more Black and Latino people to prison, who heads the local sheriff department and ordinances that affect underrepresented communities.


All of the aforementioned realities adversely affect minority communities.  Therefore, it is obvious why many do not want young, poor, Black and brown people to vote.


Disenfranchising so many minorities makes it virtually impossible for minorities to change things because change comes at the ballot box.


Although the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution allows states to make many of their own voting laws, the United States Supreme Court should one day overwhelmingly vote that the barring ex-felons to vote once their debts have been totally paid to society is unconstitutional and is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice since the days of the poll tax and the literacy test.


This article was published on Friday 28 July, 2017.
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