<< Why Is the SRCA Sinking in the Ooze? | Main | SCOTUS Takes Up Mental Element Issue and Sentencing Appeal Case >>


Enlarging a Democratic Party Voting Block?

| 7 Comments
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe today issued an order removing the disqualification from voting for felons who have completed their time, both in custody and on parole or probation.

Can he do that, constitutionally?  Of course.  Virginia Constitution Article V ยง12, the clemency power, is quite explicit on that point.

Why did he do it?  The primary reason, in my opinion, is that he expects that the criminal vote will go overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party versus the Republicans, and I believe he is correct on that.

The primary division in America today is not between rich and poor, labor and management, white and black, or any of the old divisions that have been prominent in the past.  The primary division is between people who believe in personal responsibility, obedience to the law, and work ethic, on one side, and those who do not along with their apologists, on the other.

Gov. McAuliffe believes that those who do not are more likely to vote for his party, and that should send a strong message to those who do.
But wait, isn't is possible he really believes all the pap in his "whereas" clauses about "disproportionately affects racial minorities and economically disadvantaged Virginians" and "rejecting the indefinite and unforgiving stigmatization of persons who have committed past criminal acts" and "deserve to re-enter society on fair and just terms"?

No, because if all that were true his order would include gun rights, and it expressly excludes them.  QED.  This is pure, raw politics.

Update:  I will add a further clarification of my own view on felon disenfranchisement.  First, it should be very clear that claims that such laws are racially discriminatory are utter nonsense.  Racial discrimination, by definition, is discrimination on the basis of race itself rather than what a person has individually done or individually deserves.  Felon disenfranchisement operates directly on the individual's choice to commit a serious violation of law without regard to race and is therefore the antithesis of racial discrimination.  Numbers and so-called "disproportionate impact" are irrelevant when the connection to individual desert is as clear as it is in this case.

I do believe that some felons should be able to get back their vote after they have demonstrated rehabilitation with a period of obedience to the law and lawful employment.  McAuliffe's order does not impose such requirements.  If a robber is released from prison without a parole tail, he can register to vote that day. 

Murderers and rapists should never get their vote back, in my opinion.
rejecting the indefinite and unforgiving stigmatization of persons who have committed past criminal acts - See more at: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=15008#sthash.1pCFTtFL.dpuf

7 Comments

Should former felons be exempt from paying taxes if/when they are not going to be allowed to vote? Taxation without representation seems inconsistent with American traditions. Of course, when in prison, felons are not making money. But once released, I hope many will become workers/taxpayers. Do you think it fair they have to pay taxes but do not get to vote for those who set up the taxes?

The "taxation without representation" protest that sparked the American Revolution referred to the colonies being taxed without being represented in Parliament. No one thought that meant that every person within the colony should be allowed to vote or that individual exemptions from taxation would be granted to those who could not vote.

I had to pay taxes on my earnings before I was old enough to vote. Noncitizens pay taxes, though they cannot vote. Loss of the vote for committing a felony is the fairest of all reasons because it is based on individual misconduct and not circumstances beyond a person's control. And yes, it is quite fair that felons pay taxes even though they cannot vote.

But if felony misconduct is for, say, selling marijuana or for violated federal business regulations, why should these felons (AFTER completing their imposed punishment) be precluded from voting for (or against) persons who could change what they might consider to be bad criminal laws?

You are right that that the Framers were not troubled by denying the vote to lots and lots of folks whom we now think should be part of the franchise. And that is really where I start: every citizen mentally capable of voting and subject to all of our laws presumptively ought to be allowed to vote absent a very strong reason to disenfranchise. (I would also provide that at whatever age a state sets for possible criminal bind-over to adult court should also be the voting age.)

Doug, of course, favors giving murderers the right to vote. And so anything in the service of that end is ok---even racial demagoguery.

"AFTER completing their imposed punishment"

Isn't losing the right to vote (forever or for a specified period of time) considered part of the punishment that the offender was deemed to be aware of when he/she committed their crime?

I am not suggesting that losing the right to vote forever (or even for a very long period of time) is fair or just punishment in the case of all crimes. But if it is considered to be part of the "punishment" then wouldn't the 8th Am. be the only constitutional hurdle to overcome?

I believe Bill brings up a great point that Douglas ignored.

Doug, should felons be given their right to bear arms back with their voting rights?

federalist: I favor giving everyone the right to vote, though actually I would like to make it a responsibility, not a right. I like the compulsory voting scheme in Australia, where officials explain that "Voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty."


Paul: loss of the right to vote and loss of guns rights and lots of collateral consequences are not part of the "formal" punishment in any cases that I know about, they are so-called "collateral consequences." Indeed, a person in Maine or Vermont convicted in federal or state court of any felony can continue to vote absentee even while imprisoned, whereas a person convicted in Virginia of the same/similar offense would never again be able to vote in that state (though could, I suppose, move to Maine or Vermont to regain the vote). So not Eighth Amendment challenges would be possible (though other constitutional challenges are possible). But I am arguing policy, not constitutional rights in this setting.

Tarls: I do think former felons, after completing all of their official punishment, should have restored all of their civil rights, including their Second Amendment rights.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives