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 "Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives," Holder said in the speech.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
Virginia is now being mentioned as a crucial swing state. This Congressional race is certainly one to watch. Perhaps that was why I was so impressed to hear candidate Wayne Powell, (who is challenging incumbent Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the seat he has held in the 7th District of Virginia since 2001) speak boldly and openly about the environment showdown with Cantor.
Running against incumbent Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s GOP-heavy 7th District is enough to give any Democrat the blues. So Bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley will headline a two-day campaign swing for Powell next week.
Dream on. But Democratic long shot Wayne Powell might put a few dents in the House majority leader's armor. That Powell and Zerban were in LA raising money for what seemed like increasingly less quixotic quests—Powell is the first challenger Cantor has agreed to debate in 10 years, and Zerban's internal polling in September put him within single digits of Ryan—could underscore America's waning infatuation with tea-party-style politics.
Perhaps you should give it a look, post-mortem. After all, this is the first debate Eric Cantor has agreed to in TEN YEARS.
A top aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the Republican will not accept a challenge from Chesterfield County’s Democratic Party to meet its own candidate, Wayne Powell, in a free public forum before the Nov. 6 elections.
Eric Cantor is not particularly popular in his Republican-leaning district. His personal popularity is 37% favorable, 31% unfavorable. Strongly unfavorable views outnumber strongly favorable ones, 25%- 21%. Cantor’s “re-elect” number is weak: 41% want to re-elect Cantor, while 43% want to replace him.
Democratic 7th District congressional candidate Wayne Powell is taking his campaign to unseat longterm incumbent Republican Eric Cantor right into the living rooms of central Virginia Republicans. The ad will run district-wide approximately once an hour on Fox News for the entire Convention. The ad buy is indicative of Powell’s strategy of reaching out to all voters regardless of their political affiliation.
A Richmond native and attorney like his opponent, Powell is otherwise very different from 49-year-old Cantor, Majority Leader in the U.S. House since 2011, and Culpeper County’s congressional representative since 2000.
Cantor’s name came up a lot during Thursday’s “Open Town Hall Meeting” hosted by Powell, who was articulate and well received by local constituents in attendance.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, will debate Democratic challenger Wayne Powell on Friday, Sept. 28.
Cantor, who declined to debate Democratic challenger Rick Waugh in 2010, has not debated a Democrat in a general election since 2002, when he squared off with former Georgia congressman and "Dukes of Hazzard" star Ben L. "Cooter" Jones.
It takes courage to look at a roomful of Democrats and confess that you were a consultant on John Edwards’ presidential campaign.
But that is exactly what Dave “Mudcat” Saunders did at the June 6 Chesterfield Democratic Committee meeting. Saunders just put it right out there while telling members how he thinks Wayne Powell can beat 7th District Congressman Eric Cantor.
Wayne Powell, Veteran, Small Business Owner and Local Attorney Is the Democratic Nominee to Oppose Eric Cantor. Says Cantor is “epitome of what is wrong in Washington…a career political operator who is the poster child for Washington gridlock and dysfunction”
“We take care of our own.” That was the major theme of Wayne Powell’s speech Friday at the Raven’s Nest in Culpeper.
Powell is a Democratic candidate for the 7th District, the seat currently held by House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor.
For Wayne Powell, Virginia’s 7th Congressional District “isn’t personal, it’s Cantor.”
Powell, 62, is challenging Republican incumbent Eric Cantor of Henrico County for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Powell is one of the three candidates running for the spot on the Democratic ballot this fall.
Wayne Powell wants to be the Democratic Party nominee to challenge House Majority Leader Rep. Eric I. Cantor, R-Henrico, for the 7th District seat in the House of Representatives in November.
Earlier this evening I spoke with Wayne Powell, one of three 7th Congressional District Democrats seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to face off against Eric Cantor this November. Powell told me that when he heard what had happened at Virginia's Capitol Square, he hurried downtown to offer his legal services to the protesters that had been arrested.
E. Wayne Powell, candidate for the Democratic nomination against Eric cantor in the Seventh Congressional District, today released this statement about the incidents at the Capitol.
E. Wayne Powell, a candidate for the Democratic nomination to take on Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, has had a really amazing week. It all started last Thursday when Powell received the endorsement of the Progressive Democrats of America's chapter in Virginia's 7th CD. Powell's education and experience—especially his service in the military—make him exceptionally well equipped to face Cantor.
On October 13th members of the PDA 7th District Chapter endorsed candidate E. Wayne Powell.
Occasionally I take a long weekend. It’s a chance to take a break from the profession, and the campaign. Last weekend I travelled to New York City. What started as a getaway ended in an exhilarating glimpse of democracy in action.
My name is Wayne Powell, and I'm a Democrat running for Congress in Virginia's 7th Congressional District to replace Eric Cantor. Americans need good jobs now. Let's face it, as a nation we tend to define ourselves by what we do. I am an attorney and a retired military officer. When you deny Americans an opportunity to do meaningful work and contribute to their community by providing services, you are attacking a key part of their individual identities.
VA-07 E. Wayne Powellhttp://www.powellforva.com