Friday, January 09, 2004
Voting Rights a Go-Go
Kevin Drum's talking about how ex-cons can't vote:
I have to admit that many years ago, when I first learned that ex-cons couldn't vote, I was shocked. I had always figured that once you've paid your debt, you've paid your debt. The right to vote ranks with free speech as one of the absolutely most fundamental rights in a democracy, and I honestly can't think of anything short of certifiable mental incapacity to deny it to any adult.

On a more practical level, it bothers me because so many of these ex-felons were convicted on drug charges. Emotionally, it's easy to see why people might not think that child abusers and murderers are fit to vote, but someone who got caught with a few rocks of crack? That's just indefensible.

And whether intentionally or not, it's also seriously racist. Because of the disparity in sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine, a much larger percentage of blacks get convicted on drug charges than whites. The net result is that if you use crack you're much more likely to be denied the right to vote for the rest of your life, and that means that a startlingly large proportion of the black population is permanently denied the right to vote.
Reminded me about how disappointed I feel over the Texas redistricting decision. Or of the fact that the entire District can't vote. Do you think that the gap in America between blacks and whites persists because the races are different—whites like powder, blacks like rock, whites vote Republican, blacks vote Democrat—or because whites chip away at blacks by targetting their derivative characteristics? Man white people blow.

Personally I could maybe see why a murderer should lose his right to vote, particularly if the murder was a hate crime, since I've heard there were a couple of parties in history that have been motivated by hate-inspired murder. Otherwise, I can't think of crimes that have an honest correlation with voting—it's not like you're ever going to see a politician pandering to the child molestor demographic. I'm not totally sure why we restrict voting in prisons, except for the fact that most substantive issues don't apply to prisoners, but iff felons have served their time, by all means they've served their time.

Unless you're the guy who stole my guitar. You can rot.