For Prisons Friday let's review a little about some people like me who can't vote in the USA.
Did you know that a majority of Americans favor voting rights for felons. This as nearly six million Americans with felony convictions were disinfranchised this year. A Harris Interactive Omnibus Telephone Poll of July 18-22, 2002 (I know ten years ago), found:
The key finding is that a majority of Americans favors restoring voting rights to former felons who have completed their sentences – even when told that convicts had served time for highly stigmatizing offenses such as sex crimes. Majorities in favor of voting rights for ex-felons are much stronger for less stigmatizing crimes. And high proportions of Americans favor voting rights for probationers who are currently serving their sentences in their communities, as well as for former prisoners serving time on parole.
In many states felons can vote once they are out of prison and off probation or parole. Still, more than 4 million Americans who cannot cast a ballot because they're on probation or parole, or live in a state that withholds the right to vote from all ex-felons.
Four states permanently disenfranchise ex-felons. In Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia, it takes a decree by the governor or a clemency board to restore a person's voting rights, and only after a predetermined waiting period and all fines and fees are paid can an individual submit an application.
Sentencing Project's executive director Marc Mauer says:
These policies go back to the founding of this country. [The U.S.] was founded as a great experiment in democracy, but was very limited. Wealthy, white male landowners granted themselves the right to vote, but women, poor people, African Americans and people with felony convictions could not vote.
"This is the last fundamental group that's still excluded from democratic participation.
As a result, in Virginia, 20 percent of blacks can't vote. In Florida, that number is 23 percent. In Kentucky one if five blacks can't vote. The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for prison and sentencing reform, estimates that 200,000 felons in Arizona, half of whom aren't in prison, aren't eligible to vote.
The Tucson Sentinel reports:
Josh Vander Kamp, a father of two who leads an average life, working, paying taxes and running a household with his wife, Katie, in Apache Junction. Vander Kamp has two felony convictions from 2004 and 2005 related to drug paraphernalia and possession of a burglary tool.
In 2011, years after serving his prison sentence and paying all his fines, he said he tried to get his right to vote restored but was denied without any indication as to the reason or what he needs to do to get it back.
Vander Kamp said he's moved well beyond his past and deserves to have his rights back but is frustrated by the process.
"It's a matter of me sending in a piece of paper and praying to God," he said.
Meanwhile, as the election nears and debates with friends and family on Facebook heats up, he wants to participate but never feels quite right.
"I pay taxes, I work, I definitely have opinions as far as politics go, but I feel kind of stupid," Vander Kamp said. "I talk politics with people, but then I can't vote. So why am I even talking?"
The following is from Criminal Law Brief Blog.