Time served, but still not free

When an American has been convicted of a felony, goes to jail, serves his or her time, then is released, the general principle is that they’ve paid their debt to society and have a new chance at a better life. A criminal record may make it harder for someone to get a job or housing, but in 47 states, it doesn’t permanently take away their right to vote. But in three states — Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky — felons lose their right to vote permanently unless special clemency is granted by the governor. In Florida, this means that 1.5 million citizens lose their right to vote with almost no chance of having it restored.

Governor Rick ScottFlorida’s strict felon disenfranchisement laws are steeped in more than a century of racist history. Former governor Charlie Crist had reformed Florida’s process, granting automatic restoration of voting rights to released felons. But Florida’s current governor and creepy Gollum look-alike, Rick Scott reversed Crist’s policy in 2011, and put in place stricter rules for restoring voting rights, which forced even nonviolent offenders to wait five to seven years before even being able to start the process to try to restore their right to vote.

But things are changing. A ballot initiative to change the process and automatically restore voting rights to felons (with the exception of those guilty of murder or sexual offenses) will be voted on this fall in Florida. And in the meantime, a federal judge declared Florida’s current process of restoring voting rights to felons to be unconstitutional, ordering the state to immediately institute a clemency process free from “racial, religious or political bias.” Governor Scott is appealing the decision, but time may be running out either way — polling shows 71% of Florida voters support the ballot initiative to restore felon voting rights. And 63% of Americans also believe felons who’ve served their time should have their voting rights restored.

 


More Election and voting rights news you might have missed this week…

 

1. There’s good news on voting rights. Seriously!

While it may seem that voting rights are under attack everywhere, there are signs that the trend is reversing in many states. Several states have passed laws (Washington, Oregon, California) to create automatic voter registration and allow for same-day voter registration, while others have put initiatives on the ballots this fall to expand voting rights (MichiganFloridaOhio, and Nevada). Meanwhile, several state legislatures are expanding voting rights (Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Utah).

 

2. On the other hand, in Georgia, a hyphen could cost you the right to vote

New voting restrictions passed last year in Georgia requires that names on the voting rolls must be an “exact match” with DMV or Social Security databases, which means that “the tiniest discrepancy on a registration form places them on a ‘pending’ voter list.” In other words, if you missed a hyphen on your voter registration in Georgia — or if it gets entered into the voting rolls incorrectly — you might lose the right to vote.

 

3. A member of Trump’s disbanded voter fraud commission was sued this week for voter intimidation

J. Christian Adams, part of Trump’s “voter fraud” commission, wrote two books alleging that thousands of “aliens” were voting illegally in Virginia. He’s guilty of bad math and junk statistics, but by publishing the personal information, including names, phone numbers, addresses, and, in some cases, Social Security numbers of people he accuses of illegal voting, he may have broken the law. Adams now faces a federal lawsuit.

 

4. I thought New Hampshire was supposed to be friendly, welcoming place?

New Hampshire Republicans are on the verge of passing voter restrictions and redefining residency to make it harder for college students to vote in the state. Apparently, they looked at all the voting restrictions in the South and felt that New England was missing out on the action?

 

5. Why Cambridge Analytica was really about voter suppression

Leah Wright Rigueur and Bärí A. Williams make a compelling case that most news outlets are missing the point in all the Cambridge Analytica coverage: it’s was about suppressing the votes of people of color.