Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Deny the Vote

New York Times

It has been decades since federal laws overturned the literacy tests and poll taxes that were the most blatant forms of discrimination barring black people from voting in Southern states. But even today, felony disenfranchisement is an enormous obstacle to voting for black people in the Deep South. These laws are the worst in the free world. The process for restoring voting rights for people who have been convicted of crimes can be so byzantine that officials don’t know who is eligible. The confusion bars some eligible voters from the polls for life.

In Alabama, an archaic law strips the right to vote from people convicted of crimes involving “moral turpitude,’’ without explaining what that is or what crimes are covered. A man who was convicted of a felony for driving under the influence of alcohol, for example, was stripped of his right to vote. When he reapplied for the vote, different agencies gave him contradictory answers, and he was initially prohibited from registering.

An Alabama judge has instructed the Legislature to clear up the confusion by clearly defining what the phrase means. But the problem with the state’s system runs far deeper than that. The Legislature recognized that something was seriously wrong in 2003, when it passed a law streamlining the process of restoration of voting rights for people who have completed their sentences for certain crimes. The expedited system has failed, however, because of foot-dragging and endemic confusion.

The Legislature needs to stop tinkering at the margins of this problem. The only honorable solution is to automatically restore voting rights to Alabamians who have completed their sentences. That’s the only way to take this issue out of the hands of bureaucrats and make amends for one of the most shameful voting rights records in American history.

AG asks Supreme Court to delay felon voting ruling

Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The state attorney general has asked the Alabama Supreme Court to delay all parts of a judge's order allowing felons to vote in Alabama.

Attorney General Troy King's motion argues that the entire ruling last month by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. should be shelved until the high court can rule on an appeal.

Vance had ruled last month that felons must be allowed to vote until the Alabama Legislature clarifies crimes of "moral turpitude." At a Sept. 1 hearing, Vance agreed to stay much of his order until after the Nov. 7 general election and until the Supreme Court could rule on the appeal, but he allowed felons convicted of certain offenses to vote.

The judge let stand a portion of his order that allowed people to register to vote if they have been convicted of a crime that past attorney general opinions or court decisions have said do not involve moral turpitude. Those include such offenses as felony driving under the influence or possession of small amounts of illegal drugs such as marijuana.

1 comment:

Don said...

While corrective legislation is needed regarding the restoration of voting rights for felons who have served their sentences, voter fraud also needs to be addressed because we can’t expect to have honest government unless we have honest elections. Voter fraud skews the electoral process and nullifies the will of honest voters by keeping, or putting, dishonest politicians in office. A multi-ethnic non-partisan grassroots organization, the Democracy Defense League (, with over 1,600 members has the goal of drastically reducing or eliminating voter fraud through legal means with its legislative agenda. Membership is free on its website, as well as information about known instances of fraud and the organization's efforts to combat it.