>States restore voting rights for ex-convicts

>I couldn’t pass up the chance to let readers know about this NY Times article on some states restoring voting rights to ex-convicts.

According to the article, the Florida legislature, and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, recently restored voting rights to about 112,000 former convicts last year.

More from the article:

According to the A.C.L.U. only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow prisoners, parolees and probationers to vote. Thirteen states allow parolees and probationers to vote, eight states reinstate probationer voting rights, and 20 states restore voting rights to people who have completed their sentences, although each state has different processes, exceptions and limits on eligibility requirements. Kentucky and Virginia permanently disenfranchise nearly all felons.

Florida’s felony voter registration law divides applicants into three categories based on the seriousness of their crimes: nonviolent criminals, the biggest group, need not apply for restoration of voting rights and just need to re-register. Violent criminals, but not murderers or rapists, must apply to the clemency board. The board either grants those rights immediately or investigates on a case-by-case basis. The most violent criminals are subjected to a more rigorous investigation and must attend a hearing of the clemency board, which meets only four times a year, before their rights can be reinstated.

Here’s a graphic from the story, which is credited to The Sentencing Project:

I’ve always held the belief that ex-convicts should regain the right to vote–if they comply with the law and have completed their sentence. My view is that these laws, which originate from the Reconstruction Era (which we all know was a time in which numerous laws were passed to restrict African-American life), are ways to restrict voter participation in the United States.

The article points out that laws such as these affect the poor and minorities, who, as we all know, are more likely to support the Democratic Party and make up a good chunk of the prison population.

What’s ironic is that no Democrat has been an outspoken critic of these laws. No Democrat is willing to commit political suicide and proclaim they support reinstating a constitutional right to ex-convicts. Republicans, on the other hands, are reluctant to advocate overturning these laws because, as we all know, their party most likely would not benefit from the registration of these voters.

What do you think? Do you support reinstating voting rights for ex-convicts? Why or why not? Why are politicians reluctant to support overturning these laws?