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Tag: Felon voting

Florida Former Felons Form Franchise Focus

By: Alannah Shubrick

All men are created equal. Then, some of those men go forth into the world and commit felonies. While felons in Maine or Vermont can cast ballots from the comfort of their prison cells, those convicted of felonies in Florida permanently lose their ability to vote.

Florida is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchise felons. Each of these states has procedures whereby individual felons can apply for clemency. However, in Florida, felons must wait an additional five years after completing the terms of their sentence before applying for clemency consideration. Then, only about 8% of clemency requests are granted.

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Examining the Issue of Felon Voting in Minnesota

By Kristi Breyfogle

Minnesota Voter Alliance (MVA) filed suit in court alleging that the Minnesota Secretary of State was illegally allowing convicted felons and other ineligible voters to vote in the 2016 election.  According to MVA, the Secretary of State wrongly ordered election officials to give ballots to those marked as ineligible on the voter rolls provided that they swear an oath that they are actually eligible to vote. Under Minnesota law, the secretary of state has discretion to adopt and implement rules that are consistent with state and federal laws in regards to election procedures. In Minnesota, a person convicted of a felony is ineligible to vote until their civil rights have been restored.  This means convicted felons cannot vote until they have been released from prison and have completely finished their sentences, including any parole or probation.  When a registered voter commits a felony or is otherwise ineligible to vote, the voting roster marks that person’s right to vote as “challenged.”

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Florida Activists Seek Re-Enfranchisement for Felons

By: Ethan Emery

With regards to the right to vote, a fair amount of press time has been spent on the ongoing situation surrounding the voting rights of felons in Virginia. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has attempted to return voting rights to thousands of Virginia felons, even in the face of a countermanding Supreme Court order. However, a little further South, a much larger group of the disenfranchised is seeking similar reforms.

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MD: Success in Voting Rights Restoration and Difficulties in Research

By: Mengxin (Esther) Cui

After a lengthy effort, Marylanders with felony convictions finally regained their voting rights automatically upon completion of their sentences. Unlike most states that automatically restore voting rights to people upon completion of their sentences, Maryland’s new policy does not require people to complete terms of probation or parole before restoring their right to vote (with the one exception that those convicted of buying or selling votes never regain eligibility to register to vote).  This change in Maryland’s policy followed the state legislature’s veto override on February 9, 2016.  Around 40,000 people are the beneficiaries of this override.

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Black Votes Matter: Pennsylvania’s Impressive History of Access to the Franchise

By: Ebony Thomas

Today, Pennsylvania’s voting laws are among the least restrictive of any state in granting its citizens access to the ballot. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that supports the voting rights of people with past felony convictions. Moreover, Pennsylvania has always been a leader in providing its citizens, especially its black citizens, access to its franchise.

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As early as the late 18th century, black freemen in Pennsylvania had the right to vote-well before the passage of the civil rights amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th). These gains were short-lived, as black freemen lost their suffrage rights in 1838 when the Pennsylvania constitution was amended. These freemen did not regain their right to the franchise until 1870 with the ratification of the United States Constitution’s 15th Amendment. During their disenfranchisement, blacks still fought for suffrage by petitioning and protesting for the Pennsylvania legislature to reinstate their rights. Yet their efforts fell on deaf ears. It was commonly held that apathy among black freemen and rising racial tensions between blacks and whites lost them their right to vote in Pennsylvania. Surprisingly, once blacks regained their right to vote in 1870, Pennsylvania did not impose any barriers on the franchise, in contradistinction to other states, which imposed barriers like the poll tax and literacy tests that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Past Prisoners at the Polls: The Legality of Vote Restoration to Felons in Virginia

“No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.”

This is the mandate of Article I, § 2 of the Virginia Constitution.  But, how much authority does a Virginia governor really have to restore voting rights to felons? The answer seems to be that a Virginia governor has fairly broad authority to restore voting rights to felons so long as he does so on an individualized basis. The next question becomes: what counts as an individualized basis? That answer may be gleaned from the Virginia Supreme Court’s recent decision not to find Governor McAuliffe in contempt of court for his actions taken in August to restore voting rights to felons.

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Take a Note from Nebraska

By: Eleyse D’Andrea

Criminals have been stripped of their rights – including the right to vote – throughout history.  The revocation of voting rights, known as disenfranchisement, can be traced as far back as ancient Greek and Roman civilization. European colonists carried the concept of disenfranchisement to America, and it has prevailed in modern times despite various challenges.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the disenfranchisement of convicted felons does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution in 1974, and several years later found that a disenfranchisement law is unconstitutional only with evidence of purposeful racial discrimination. This decision gave states like Nebraska the right to permanently disenfranchise convicted criminals. Although Nebraska originally had one of the harshest disenfranchisement laws – a lifetime ban for ex-felons – a bill passed in 2005 provides automatic restoration of voting rights to felons two years after completion of felony sentence.

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Deciphering Felony Disenfranchisement in Post-Realignment California

In August of 2015, California restored the voting rights to approximately 60,000 former felony offenders who had been improperly disenfranchised as a result of a glitch in the political process. In the whirlwind of California’s recent prison reform acts, these citizens had been inappropriately classified as ineligible to vote in violation of California’s Constitution and election laws. Although the case had already been decided in the voters’ favor by a trial court, it was not until California’s current Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, decided this summer to drop the appeal that these former felony offenders could feel safe registering to vote. But how did such a large number of potential voters end improperly disenfranchised in the first place?

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Is the Disenfranchisement of 1.5 Million Floridians Justifiable?

By Christine Wilson

Early voting in Florida has already begun, but Florida voters are not necessarily enthusiastic about either candidate for Governor. Democratic candidate and former Governor Charlie Crist switched political parties and many Floridians distrust him because of his switch. Voters are also not very fond of Governor Rick Scott because of his stance on various issues. According to six out of ten voters, the phrase “honest and ethical” describes neither Governor Scott nor Crist. Continue reading

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