Michael A. Wallace, Americas Voices, lays out the rational used by the left, then exposes the real reasons why they are pushing so hard to win voting rights for felons.
The Pro-Democracy folks have structured their public argument so that they appear to only support ex-prisoners – i.e., felons who have been incarcerated. 7 In public they say ex-prisoners, but their real agenda is felons, the reason being felonies affect the privilege of voting. The fact is that a third of all people facing our criminal justice system never are incarcerated at all – they get straight probation.
Technically, felons on probation and parole cannot vote (the majority for a temporary period of time). The fact that so many felons receive straight probation, or are on probation or parole after incarceration, makes it imperative that checks are put in place at State levels which precludes them from registering and voting until they meet conditions levied upon them. Some States at least are doing precisely that. 8,9
Liberals seem to believe that just because a felon has been released from incarceration that they have finished their sentence. This is not necessarily true. In the majority of cases, there is a conditional period of probation attached to their release, which means in effect their full sentence has not been served. But liberals don’t seem to care about that technicality, or the fact recidivism rates are fairly high for probationers and parolees. 10
Liberals are factually incorrect when they imply that once convicted of a felony, a person never can regain the right to vote. Their literature cites over 4 million Americans who are permanently disenfranchised, "…particularly African Americans who are incarcerated at a disproportionately high rate." They further claim that "these lifetime voting prohibition laws violate citizens’ constitutional voting rights and must be repealed." 11 Further still, there is the claim that the disenfranchisement helps elect Republicans! 12
Liberals are ignoring the fact that States impose conditions for the reinstatement of voting rights depending on the nature of crimes committed and the person’s conviction record. States vary somewhat in terms of sentencing, incarceration, probation, parole, and the process for regaining civil rights, to include voting rights. 13, 14,15, 16 Most recognize that people convicted of crimes should have to prove to their fellow citizens, through demonstrated behavior, that they are good citizens before full restoration of civil rights.
Liberals twist and ignore facts quite easily if they stand in the way of their objective.
What the Issue is Really About: The Census and the Electoral College
The real reason the liberals are pushing the vote for felons so hard is related to the 2000 Census results and its effect in conjunction with other planks in their agenda. They don’t admit this publicly.
Imagine that the liberals successfully secure the right of felons to vote, either within particular States or even nationally. And imagine that liberals successfully alter the manner in which electors are chosen, such as proportional to the popular vote, either within particular States or even nationally. Or imagine that they are successful in dismantling the Electoral College. Got the picture of the setup? This is why the Pro-Democracy Campaign is structured the way it is.
Because of demographic trends, in the next two presidential elections, New York and Pennsylvania, for example, lose two electors each. Those also happen to be two States with high felon populations. If the Democrats have their hopes realized, they will pad their voter rolls with felons and gain, they hope, a virtual "lock" on all elections. That’s the danger. But it can get worse.
If the Electoral College is eliminated and this country moves to direct voting, liberals hope that the felon vote, among other measures, will deliver the Presidency every time. With a difference of a couple hundred thousand popular votes in the last election, figure the odds on the political shift to the left as a result of felons voting. That’s what the Democrats are counting on.
Whether at the State level or national level, liberals are hoping for gains related to the felon’s vote; they desperately want felons to vote because they believe they will vote for the liberal cause. The liberal cause is a lessening of personal responsibility and accountability for one’s choices and actions in life. Certainly the cause includes promoting the cult of victimization and unjust persecution and the offering of sympathetic affirmation that circumstances cause effect, rather than human choice and action. In other words, blame someone or something else for your lot in life. Liberals confuse notions of responsibility, accountability and forgiveness behind a demand for rights.
The intent of their program, my friends, is about power; it is not about altruism and a sense of right and wrong. The liberals are advocating change behind a smokescreen of piety when their true intent is to gain advantage at the polls. 17
7 Felony Sentencing in the United States, 1996, by Jodi M. Brown and Patrick A. Langan (Author's comment: The Pro-Democracy folks confuse the issue as just ex-prisoners when, in fact, many are not ex-prisoners at all. In 1996, for example, only 69% of felons were incarcerated, while 31% received straight probation. If these folks are on probation, they haven’t served their sentence yet. The author's conclusion is the Pro-Democracy folks really want everyone to vote, no matter the crime, no matter if they are incarcerated, no mater if on probation.)
8 Area election officials check felon figures, August 18, 1999 by Sun Staff writer Karen Voyles. "[Florida] Secretary of State Sandra Mortham told reporters Tuesday that the first cross-check of a new statewide voters database with criminal records turned up 50,483 felons registered as voters." "Election supervisors in each county are responsible for verifying whether the 50,483 people on the new felon list are in fact ineligible or whether they've had their civil rights restored." [Author's note: These figures are clearly within Bureau of Justice statistics for the State of Florida. For example, at yearend 1998, there were 240,000 Floridians on probation and 85,000 on parole.]
9 In 1999, Virginia installed a computer system that enables voting registrars to access the list of convicted felons - the intention being of course to maintain the integrity of voter rolls.
10 U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Probation and Parole in the United States, 1998, revised 10/01/99, by Thomas P. Bonczar. At yearend 1998, the total estimated correctional population was 5,890,300. 3,417,613 people were in a supervisory status of probation; 704,964 were in a supervisory status of parole. 584,372 people were incarcerated in jails; 1,232,900 were incarcerated in prison. 57% of all probationers had been convicted of a felony. [Author's note: The preceding figures include both felonies and non-felonies.]
Adults entering probation without incarceration in 1998 - 77%; with incarceration - 17%
Adults leaving probation in 1998:
returned to incarceration 17%
with a new sentence 9%
with same sentence 9%
other unsuccessful 9%
Of 423,700 parolees discharged from supervision in 1998, 45% had successfully met the conditions of their supervision, while 42% had been returned to incarceration.
11 Barring Democracy, by Sasha Abramsky, October 17, 2000, Mother Jones Magazine. "Some four million US citizens, most of them minorities, are denied the right to vote because they were once convicted of felonies. The growing number of disenfranchised Americans may be helping elect Republicans, from state legislatures to the White House." [Author's note: Surely Sasha doesn't mean to imply that criminals are likely to be Democrats, or Democrats are likely to be criminals!]…. "Because most of those who can't vote are poor and/or people of color - exactly the demographic groups most likely to vote Democrat – many close elections won by Republicans in recent years might have turned out very differently had ex-felons (sic) had the right to vote." [Author's comment: Total hogwash. First, being poor or a person of color do not by themselves prevent one from voting. Second, there is no such thing as an "ex-felon". Third - does being poor or a person of color make one disposed to be a felon? Is this the implication? If so, the assertion is degrading and racially disparaging.]
12 US Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney, Civil Disabilities of Convicted Felons, Oct 1996. This report provides a state by state analysis of the procedures necessary to have civil rights and voting privileges restored.
13 US Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney, Civil Disabilities of Convicted Felons, Oct 1996. This report provides a state by state analysis of the procedures necessary to have civil rights and voting privileges restored.
14 CBS News National, Felony Voting Ban Called Biased, Washington, September 21, 2000. This article states 2% of all Americans, or 3.9 million have lost the right to vote. (Author's italics) They report 9 States impose lifetime voting bans on convicted felons, and in 32 states they can vote after serving their sentence and completing parole. "Three states, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont - have no prohibition and allow prisoners to vote, but Massachusetts voters will act on a ballot measure in November that will strip prisoners of voting rights." "Six other states impose restrictions based on a felon's prison record or parole status." [Author's note: Massachusetts's voters subsequently approved a measure denying prisoner's voting rights. The issue came up because a local prison population had formed a political action committee and threatened to dominate local politics!]
15 The Sentencing Project, Regaining the Vote: An Assessment of Activity Relating to Felon Disenfranchisement Laws, by Patricia Allard and Marc Mauer, January 2000. http://sentencingproject.org/news/regainvote.htm This reference is a thumbnail sketch of the policy disparity between some states. The report states 46 States and DC deprive inmates the right to vote. [Author's note: Actual number appears to currently be 48 States. The two exceptions are Maine and Vermont.] "In thirty-two states, convicted offenders may not vote while they are on parole, and twenty-nine of these states disenfranchise offenders on probation. In 14 states, ex-offenders who have fully served their sentences nonetheless can be disenfranchised for life." They estimate that 3.9 million have currently or permanently lost the ability to vote. (Italics by author.) [Author's note: Notice the disparity in the facts reported both here and in the citation above, reported the same year. The previous CBS report asserted 3.9 million people have lost the right to vote, whereas The Sentencing Project more correctly notes they estimate 3.9 million people have currently or permanently lost the ability to vote. In yet another Sentencing Project source, Facts About Prisons and Prisoners, they cite dramatically growing numbers of incarcerated and people on probation and parole. "There are now 6.3 million Americans incarcerated or on probation, or parole, and increase of 242 percent since 1980." This figure is cited in current Bureau of Justice reports.]
16 In June 15, 2001, I interviewed Patricia Allard, one of the authors of The Sentencing Project report cited above. I questioned her about State by State differences in how felons are accorded restoration of voting rights, and issues related to portability of a felon's right to vote when moving between States. To her knowledge, she said, there has not been a State-by-State study on portability of the felon's vote. She stated that Delaware once had a lifetime ban, but now felons can register to vote after five years. In Connecticut, probationers cannot vote. (Yet on May 4, 2001, the Governor signed a bill allowing just that.) And in Florida, felons are required to fill out a 12-14 page application. (The author appreciates Ms. Allard's time and thanks Marc Mauer for written permission granted to reference their material.)
17 During the run-up to the 1996 campaign and after, the Clinton Administration went after the immigrant vote in a big way – by relaxing criteria for admission and time requirements for citizenship - all the while aggressively pushing Democrat registration drives. Now that a Gore Administration is prevented from furthering the strategy, the next place for Democrats to turn is inward, to the felon population.
Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Michael A. Wallace & America's Voices, Inc. All rights reserved.
Michael A. Wallace is a registered Republican, a former Eagle Scout, a Lifetime Member of the National Rifle Association, a strong believer in Second Amendment rights, a retired Marine officer, and a pro-life advocate –- all things liberals seem to dislike. In addition to his affiliation with America's Voices, Mike is a founding member of ConservaVets, a conservative veteran's organization (which has since become Rally4America). Mike uses thorough constitutional and historical research to analyze and explain key moral and political issues of the day. He particularly enjoys debunking the myths and lies perpetrated by the many liberal groups who claim to speak for most Americans and by those who misrepresent Constitutional principles to further their own agendas. E-mail Mike at email@example.com.