Attorney General Eric Holder this week called on states to do away with arcane laws that prohibit more than 6 million felons, most of whom are people of color, from voting in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center. "Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives," Holder said in the speech. "They could not vote."
Currently, four states disenfranchise for life those convicted of felonies, and seven states permanently disenfranchise those with at least some kind of criminal convictions. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow those convicted of crimes to vote without restrictions.
Holder characterized these state policies as the remnants of the racist Jim Crow system in the South in the aftermath of the Civil War, in which states enacted laws to control and oppress people of color oand to keep them from voting.
"It is important to remember that these laws disenfranchising people with criminal convictions have some of their roots in some of our country's most shameful past and serve to prevent communities of color from translating their numbers into a free and fair and accurate percentage of the voting population," said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "It is an important recognition of the fact that goals of reintegration are not furthered by having people who cannot participate in our body politic."
According to a 2009 Brennan Center study, the restoration of voting right to felons would not only contribute to a more robust democracy and the advancement of civil rights, but also would aid law enforcement and ensure fair and accurate voter rolls by relieving the administrative problems that accompany disenfranchisement polices.
"The act of voting is pregnant with so many good virtues that it totally stands to reason that people who engage in those good virtues are going to be people who are more successful when they are reintegrated," Pérez said.
But the states don’t have to adhere to Holder’s calls for change because state law sets the rules by which people can vote, which has caused the Obama administration great consternation on other voting rights issues such as voter identification laws, which have been shown to prevent people of color and the poor from going to the polls. Holder, in August 2013, called for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Since Holder’s Tuesday speech, Republican leaders have indicated they are not willing to budge on their state policies, with Frank Collins, a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, telling The New York Times that Holder’s speech "has no effect on Florida’s Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote."
And the idea that Holder’s speech is simply scratching at the surface of the issue to pay lip service to civil rights and mass incarceration without seriously addressing the problems certainly holds water for some. Bruce A. Dixon, managing editor of theBlack Agenda Report who also serves on the state committee for the Georgia Green Party, said the speech was another indicator of what he called the black political establishment’s complacency with issues of mass incarceration.
"Their concern with the issue is like drive-by deep. If they can get away with making a few pronouncements, and keeping people on the hook so that they’ll line up and vote for the Democrats again in the next year, than that’s all they’ll do," Dixon said. "They don’t really have any skin in the game in any important way . . . they’re not trying to shrink the numbers of people in prison."
Dixon pointed to the track record of political officials, like Holder, who he says have done little to rein in organizations like the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys, which has issued statements defending policies widely held to contribute to the mass incarceration of people of color.
"If Holder and his bosses really meant to do anything about mass incarceration they could make heads roll among these assistant US district attorneys, or they could engage in some public rhetoric against them to set the table for a national discussion of this stuff," Dixon said. "It’s really not just Eric Holder; it’s the entire black political class."
One sure route to enfranchise felons would be to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, cosponsored by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.). The bill would restore the right to vote to American citizens who are released from prison or serving probation sentences, but the bill has languished since it was introduced in 2009.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is drafting a somewhat similar bill, the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act, for restoration of voting rights for those convicted of nonviolent felonies. Rand opposes disenfranchisement law in Kentucky, which is among the states barring voting rights from felons for life.
Dixon argued for an amendment to the Constitution that would guarantee the right to vote to all. "Once you make the right to vote a Constitutional right, then that means no county court and no state government can make up laws that will impede it unless they fit federal guidelines. It also means that there will be uniform standards nationwide for how votes are counted and how elections are run."
Link to original article from Truthout
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission
Congress may be on recess, but activists across the country are not taking a break from the nationwide push to get big money out of politics. Today activists teamed up for a massive petition drop, delivering petitions in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United to 21 Senate offices in 15 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington).
It seems like every e-mail I receive these days from a Democratic Senate candidate or Senator up for re-election this cycle includes a warning that the infamous Koch brothers will do anything, no matter the cost, to take over the US Senate - and with it, our country.
On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed a law to establish a Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court.
It’s surely to have Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia quaking in their Tea Party boots because it would mean they would actually have to be independent of political and other influences. They would also have to have the appearance of independence. They would have to stay away from political activity. That part would be really hard.
On June 23rd the State Senate passed AJR 1, making California the second state in the union to officially call for an Article V constitutional convention for the sole purpose of passing a United States constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn Citizens United v. FEC and limit the corrupting influence of money in our electoral process.
A new organization called ExposeFacts—backed by well-known source of The Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg—is debuting itself in Washington, DC on Wednesday as a new place where government and corporate employees aware of wrongdoing can more safely and securely report their concerns.
The telecommunications industry is creating and funding front groups which pose as consumer organizations and aggressively lobby to kill net neutrality, journalist Lee Fang revealed in an article published in Vice on Friday.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a country that touts freedom of the press depends upon cable TV comedy shows to hear the real news.
Why the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling is good news for the super-rich and bad news for progressive Democrats.
At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, a conservative election lawyer and a baby-faced electrical engineer from Alabama with a made-for-TV Southern drawl began plotting how to unravel federal campaign finance regulations.
This is an idea worth spreading - so - please watch & share with 5 or 10 friends. It’s important to get money out of politics and the average person back in. Also - leave a message on the YouTube and let TED know - this is one of the most important issues of the day."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is, as they boast on its website, the world's largest business organization, as well as the nation's largest corporate lobbying group. It is also a recipient of some of the largest amounts of so-called "dark" money in the country, refusing to disclose to the public its donors or even the amounts it receives.
Citizens United is not just the default reference for US Supreme Court decisions—including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling—that have ushered in a new era of corporate dominance of American elections. It’s the name of the conservative group that encouraged Chief Justice John Roberts and the most activist Court majority in American history to tear the heart out of what were already weak campaign finance laws.
PITTSFIELD -- Their signs read "Get Big Money Out of Politics," "Democracy Is Not For Sale" and "This Is What Plutocracy Looks Like." About a dozen of them stood in Park Square on Wednesday evening, one of 130 "rapid response events" coordinated nationwide to protest that morning's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.
Any doubts about the determination of an activist United States Supreme Court to rewrite election rules so that the dollar matters more than the vote were removed Wednesday, when McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was decided in favor of the dollar.
Sam Bell is in the third year of a PhD program in geology at Brown University. Geology as in rocks. But Bell also moonlights as the the state coordinator of The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, the state affiliate of the 10-year-old Progressive Democrats of America. And in his work with The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, Bell was instrumental to the investigation that ultimately led to the National Rifle Association paying the second largest campaign finance fine in the state's history.
Postal workers are giving it their all this holiday season, as cards and packages and returns must be collected and delivered amidst ice storms, snowstorms and wild temperature drops.
They deserve our thanks in 2013.
And our support in 2014.
Thanks to a loophole that subsidizes CEO pay, McDonald's, Yum Brands, Wendy's, Burger King, Domino's, and Dunkin' Brands trimmed $64 million from their tax bills in 2011 and 2012.
The fast food industry is notorious for handing out lean paychecks to their burger flippers and fat ones to their CEOs. What’s less well-known is that taxpayers are actually subsidizing fast food incomes at both the bottom — and top — of the industry.
In December 1972, I was part of a nationwide campaign that came tantalizingly close to getting the U.S. Senate to reject Earl Butz, Richard Nixon's choice for secretary of agriculture. A coalition of grass-roots farmers, consumers and scrappy public interest organizations (like the Agribusiness Accountability Project that Susan DeMarco and I then headed) teamed up with some gutsy, unabashedly progressive senators to undertake the almost impossible challenge of defeating the cabinet nominee of a president who'd just been elected in a landslide.
Progressive voices were heard loud and clear at Saturday’s Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) State Committee Meeting in Maricopa, Arizona.
Unlike some past ADP meetings where progressives were ignored or where progressive resolutions were tabled and not heard by the full ADP membership, the Maricopa meeting was dominated by progressives.
Tucson is one of the most impoverished cities in the country—for many reasons. The Arizona Legislature—driven by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and short-sighted, “small government” ideology—has routinely swept funds earmarked for counties and cities to “balance” the state’s budget or fund pet projects like lower corporate taxes. Beyond the Legislature’s negative impact on Baja Arizona, the Tucson economy is not diversified enough. Manufacturing is nearly non-existent in Southern Arizona. There is an over-reliance on defense spending, University of Arizona spin-offs, tourism, low-wage service jobs, and growth/development.
MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track
Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority
MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership
CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab
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