5/06/2006

Circuit Court: Felons can be prevented from voting even if felons are disproportionately minorities

Given that the 14th amendment to the constitution clearly says that states can ban felons from voting, the issue would seem clear to me, but we will have to ultimately wait for the Supreme Court.

A landmark civil rights law cannot be used to argue that barring felons from voting discriminates against minorities because they are imprisoned at a higher rate, a federal court ruled Thursday. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which removed barriers to black voters, was not an avenue of relief for 21 plaintiffs, which include six current prisoners.

The plaintiffs sued the state in November 2000.

Judge Jose A. Cabranes, who voted with the majority in the 8-5 ruling, said there were "persuasive reasons'' to believe Congress did not intend the Voting Rights Act to cover laws passed to prevent prisoners and parolees from voting in New York elections.

He noted that every state except Maine and Vermont bans felons from voting.

Though the ruling related to elections in New York state, Cabranes acknowledged the issue has relevance nationwide and that "absent Congressional clarification, will only be definitively resolved by the Supreme Court.'' . . .


Minor aside: I recently debated this issue a few weeks ago in front of 1,700 high school students in Illinois. One of the phrases that bother me the most in this debate is referring to people as ex-felons once they are released from prison. The problem is that once a felon, you are always a felon unless your record is expunged.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The downside is that many (most?) felonies are non-violent. Do we really want the state to decide who can and who can't certify their power?

Twisting the argument from voting to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was clearly written as a check against state power. If the state can define who can and who can't possess a gun then it loses all meaning.

I think erring against the state is a good thing.

5/06/2006 10:52 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/06/2006 11:04 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

I can easily accept that all felonies are not the same. If those who want felons to vote want to make that argument, they should not want to restore the voting rights for all felons. Many felonies are indeed nonviolent. Fine say that these penalties apply to only violent felons, but liberals will not accept that limit. Why?

There are so many collateral penalties that one faces from conviction, even for misdemeanors, and yet liberals are only arguing that voting rights should be restored. Why not the ability to get certain types of jobs? Why not the ability to defend yourself? Most of these convicted felons are poor and will live in high crime areas, but we will not allow them to defend themselves. My guess is that most felons are probably more concerned with their ability to work or defend themselves than with the ability to vote, but the only concern that liberals have is for their votes.

If there are good reasons to trust these people with a weapon, there are probably at least as good reasons not to trust them with the ability to make political decisions for others. It would be easy enough to be consistent.

5/06/2006 11:06 PM  

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