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LAWMAKERS PUSH BILL RESTORING VOTING RIGHTS TO EX-FELONS


----- Original Message -----
From: Sherry Swiney
To: Patrick Crusade
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2006 8:14 PM
Subject: Black lawmakers push bill restoring voting rights to ex-felons

"My first thought is the right to vote is an important enough right that people who lose that right should have to do something to get it back," Attorney General Troy King said   Well, they did do something to get it back.  They served their time in prison and PAID society for their crime.  Isn't that enough punishment for you, Troy King?
 
However, vote officials said some of the proposed changes in the bill aren't feasible and others, such as allowing some felons to vote from prison through absentee ballots, would hurt the integrity of elections.  They ought to check with the two states in this country that already have prisoners who are still behind bars voting without "hurting the integrity of elections."  See Vermont, Maine & Massachusetts with zero disenfranchisement  http://www.righttovote.org/state.asp compared to all other states.

The US Contitution says that EVERY CITIZEN has the right to vote.  To me this means everyone who is a citizen has a right to vote unless when they become a prisoner they have their citizenship taken away.  The problem is taxation without representation.  When a prisoner is freed, he/she is expected to get a job and pay taxes like everyone else.  If they cannot vote because government has taken away that right, then they are not represented.  Therefore, if the vote is refused, these people will not LEGALLY have to pay taxes.

Respectfully,
Sherry Swiney
Director, P.A.T.R.I.C.K.
www.patrickcrusade.org
Member of the Board, NJCDLP
http://www.njcdlp.org/
Patrick Swiney-innocent in prison
www.patrickswiney.com
 "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing" Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Irish philosopher, statesman, quoted by -- Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
 

Black lawmakers push bill restoring voting rights to ex-felons

2/9/2006, 6:33 p.m. ET

By SAMIRA JAFARI

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Several black lawmakers expressed their support Thursday for a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons upon their release from prison.

State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who is sponsoring the bill, said the current system, which requires felons to apply for a voting certificate, has created long delays in restoring voting rights and disenfranchises inmates who have already "paid their debt to society."

About two dozen advocates for voting rights restoration joined Singleton, Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile, and Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, on the Statehouse steps Thursday, holding handwritten signs reading "Unlock the Vote" and "Unlock the Block" at the news conference.

The bill states that of the 262,000 felons who have lost their voting rights under Alabama's law, half are black. Ross told reporters that while the law disproportionately affects blacks, who make up only 25 percent of the state population, voting rights should be everyone's concern.

"This is not an issue of color," Ross said. "It's an issue about people."

However, vote officials said some of the proposed changes in the bill aren't feasible and others, such as allowing some felons to vote from prison through absentee ballots, would hurt the integrity of elections.

"My first thought is the right to vote is an important enough right that people who lose that right should have to do something to get it back," Attorney General Troy King said in an interview. "We should be tightening election laws to protect the integrity of elections, not loosening them."

The bill seeks to alleviate application backlogs that have become commonplace at the pardons and paroles board by eliminating the petition process altogether for convicted felons.

The board supports the legislation, said spokeswoman Cynthia Dillard.

Under Alabama's 2003 voting rights restoration act, felons who have committed crimes of "moral turpitude" - meaning crimes that are inherently immoral - lose their right to vote and must petition the pardons and paroles board to get their privileges back.

The bill proposes to automatically restore voting rights to such felons upon their release, with treason and impeachment convicts being the only exceptions.

Felons who have not committed a crime of moral turpitude, such as those convicted of DUI or minor drug possession, would be able to vote through absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley called that an "abominable idea," though she stopped short of completely opposing the bill. She said allowing prisoners to vote opens the door to ballot tampering and may also violate privacy laws.

But "if they've completed their sentence and payment of restitution and come back to society, we shouldn't bar their participation in an election," she said.

Similar measures in the past have drawn criticism from Republicans and failed to pass in the Legislature. Singleton said his bill "is a boost to our democracy," but he expected to face obstacles during the current session as well.

King said eliminating the application process for felons cheapens the voting process for everyone else.

State Rep. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, agreed, saying convicts "need to prove they are contributing, worthwhile citizens."

Since Oct. 1, 2003, more than 8,000 felons have petitioned to vote again. It was especially overwhelming in 2004, an election year, Dillard said.

The issue of felons registering to vote gained momentum after the state Board of Pardons and Paroles announced that, according to a 1996 amendment to the Alabama constitution, many state prisoners convicted of drug and alcohol felonies may be eligible to vote - despite common belief that felons are prohibited from casting ballots.

The board received a March advisory opinion from King, who said only felonies involving moral turpitude disqualify a convict from voting.

The finding caught state voting officials off guard, prompting a request by Worley to King seeking a comprehensive list of crimes that forfeit voting rights and those that don't.

King recently declined to offer such a list, saying lawsuits filed against Worley by convicted felons claiming Alabama has wrongly denied their voting rights prevent him from intervening on the issue.

Singleton on Thursday agreed that defining crimes of moral turpitude is still necessary to implement his bill, should it get legislative approval.


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