Despite Having Paid their Debt to Society they will Never Vote again
There are three States in the United States where a felony conviction means that you have lost the right to vote forever; Florida, Kentucky and Iowa. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled today that over 20,000 convicted felons, regardless of the nature of their offense, will remain permanently disenfranchised. In most States having fully executed one’s sentence will allow an ex-offender the ability to register to vote. For a review of disenfranchisement laws for ex-offenders the Sentencing Project provides an excellent review and set of resources. If one has paid his or her debt to society in full there should be come a defined point in time where basic civil rights, including the right to vote, are fully restored.
The Disproportionate Impact upon People of Color
The passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 prohibited discriminatory laws and practices which sought to hinder or prohibit people of color from exercising their right to vote, particularly in the American south. But over the course of the last several decades efforts have sought to undo the impact of the 1965 legislation. The Sentencing Project notes that 5.8 million Americans cannot vote due to a felony conviction. 1 in 13 African-Americans has lost the right to vote due to justice interaction vs. 1 in 56 non-black voters. These numbers have clear repercussions in electoral politics. In some States, such as Florida, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of predominantly Black and Latino voters can make a big difference in local, State and even National elections.
The decision by Iowa’s Supreme Court to maintain permanent bars to voting for such a large number of its citizens is an affront to justice. Again, there must come a point in time when people who have made a mistake in their lives shall be allowed to have their fundamental civil rights restored.
BREAKING: Iowa Supreme Court Refuses To Restore Voting Rights To 20,000 Former Felons
by Kira Lerner Jun 30, 2016 9:51 am
Iowa’s highest court on Thursday refused to restore voting rights to more than 20,000 of the state’s ex-felons, ruling that the state constitution allows the disenfranchisement of people convicted of of “infamous crimes.”
The state Supreme Court ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued the lawsuit on behalf of Kelli Jo Griffin, an Iowa woman who was charged with perjury for attempting to vote in a 2013 municipal election with a low-level drug charge on her record.
“Constrained, as we must be, by our role in government, we conclude our constitution permits persons convicted of a felony to be disqualified from voting in Iowa until pardoned or otherwise restored to the rights of citizenship,” the court’s majority said in its opinion.
Iowa is one of three states with the harshest felon disenfranchisement laws. The state constitution revokes voting rights for life from anyone who has committed what it calls an “infamous crime,” a vague phrase that includes all felons, from low-level drug offenders to those who have committed more serious, violent crimes. The ACLU argued before the state Supreme Court that most felons have not committed an “infamous crime.”