Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Elsewhere: Primaries, War on Voting

Just a couple for you today. Over at Plum Line, I wrote about the latest in the War on Voting, which is actually a golden oldie in the war on voting: claims that the Minnesota Senate race in 2008 was stolen by ex-felons. What I should have added more explicitly is that it should be really easy for (all) ex-felons to vote. I'm much more agnostic about felons currently serving time...I can see the argument either way. But once you've served your sentence? Of course the franchise should be restored.

And then at PP I did one on the Hawaii Senate race -- or, more precisely, at the lack of very much visible liberal interest in the Hawaii Senate primary compared with intense conservative interest in lots of primaries.

14 comments:

  1. On the one hand, if felons were allowed to vote, we all know which way they'd vote.

    On the other hand, convicted felons are the kind of people who are, shall we say, lacking in conscientiousness. No doubt would be even lower than in that party's other voting banks.

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    1. Missing word there... should say "turnout would be even lower".

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    2. Libertarian? In the very close Washington State governor's race a few years back, the national GOP made a big fuss about felons voting. And, in fact, a few were found who had voted illegally -- but, they were all either Republicans or Libertarians. None had voted for the Democratic candidate.

      Contrary to conservative stereotype, the majority of felons are white. Many care a great deal about their gun rights (which the big bad government generally is even more anxious to take away than their voting rights). And many are extremely conservtive on social issues.

      I remember listening to a local conservative talk radio personality several years ago who was happy to encourage a caller's outraged ramble about the government's attempts to limit his gun rights -- until, rather late in the game to shut him up, he realized the guy was complaining because he'd lost the right to (legally) carry because of a little manslaughter conviction. But the best part was when this full-throated defender of liberty whined, "And now they're taking away my son's rights too!" (His son had just been convicted of vehicular manslaughter.)

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  2. The racist roots of keeping ex-felons from voting are pretty obvious (even if that doesn't motivate all current supporters).

    I think it's pretty obvious that currently imprisoned people are in no position to supervise society and shouldn't vote.

    People in transition back to societal responsibility via parole and probation are in a gray area. I'd let them vote but wouldn't consider it unethical to decide otherwise.

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  3. Jonathan:

    I'm surprised you are torn about currently imprisoned felons voting, given your stance on expanding the franchise to younger teenagers.

    In fact, I really can't think of any strong arguments for a general ban on prisoners voting; I can see the case for barring *certain* felons --- such as those convicted of treason --- but I fail to see how something like conviction for 7th degree criminal possession of crack has anything to do with participating in a republican society, even if you think recreational drugs are a massive scourge on America.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

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    1. Less torn than just don't care a whole lot about it. I'm a lot more unhappy about how many currently imprisoned felons there are than whether they can vote (and, no, I don't think that if they voted that would change). I guess it's one more impractical fight than I want to think about.

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  4. Several years ago, the internet movie database did a poll of its users' favorite films, in which The Godfather and Shawshank Redemption were #1 and #2 in the US and UK. Shawshank is a highly watchable prison buddy flick, framed on two rather dubious plot devices.

    First, Tim Robbins is 'wrongly' convicted of a crime he didn't commit, though he was in fact loaded, his gun was loaded, he was in his wife's driveway spitting invective at her, ready to kill her any minute, when - in an unprecedented moon shot! - some other dude did so first, which the jury, somehow, overlooked.

    Once in the big house, Robbins scraped his way out, using a metal spoon on cinderblock all night, every night, for two decades, in an otherwise dead silent, cavernous max security prison. The metal spoon on cinderblock, in an otherwise silent prison, apparently attracted no attention for several thousand nights.

    This is not a rant that Shawshank should be cinema verite. However, if I were a locked-up felon, stuck in a dirty, noisy prison, with my economic enfranchisement taken along with my personal freedom, I think I'd be a bit unhappy that my political enfranchisement is in the hands of folks who, if Shawshank is any indication, have never much thought about either a) the frequently chaotic, "there-but-for-the-Grace-of-God" aspect of much felonious crime or b) what its like inside.

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    1. First, Andy escaped with a rock hammer.

      Second, what's implausible about spoon through cinderblock? That's exactly how the most famous Alcatraz escape happened.

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    2. You're right, rock hammer: stupid oversight on my part.

      That most famous Alcatraz escape is the Anglin plot, which served as the inspiration for the Eastwood film and somewhat for Shawshank. Note Wikipedia: the 'scratching through the wall' part of that plot was performed during 'accordion hour', as the music was necessary to disguise the otherwise suspicious noise of the effort.

      Presumably, the Anglin conspirators would not have been successful had they attempted to scrape through the wall in the dead silence of the middle of the night.

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    3. Ah, but CSH, you forget Shawshank's cover...fresh meat crying every night.

      :)

      I liked Family Guy's take on that, with Peter smashing through the sewage pipe to the clapping in the Friends intro music.

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  5. Why is the discussion always a dichotomy between ex-felons who have served their time and felons currently in prison? What about people on probation or parole?

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    1. I could see a decent case made for taking away voting rights for the length of the original sentence, so that probation or parole wouldn't restore voting. You know, once you've made the case that any felony conviction automatically strips voting rights (which is not necessarily an easy case to make).

      That said, I'm relatively agnostic on the question, with the exception of the lifetime ban states: it seems to me that the notion that you EVER run afoul of the law once and you're never to be allowed to be a full citizen again is more than a little draconian.

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    2. I like simple solutions: if you're in prison, you can't vote. If you have an address outside, you can register to vote.

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