Allowing felons to vote

Maine and Vermont are currently the only states which allow inmates to vote. A number of other states have laws allowing those convicted of felonies the right to vote after release or after probation is over. Still, several states don’t allow it no matter what. Commit a felony at 18, serve 3 years, and you still can’t vote at 85. The Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution allows this in the 14th Amendment, but the scenario I just gave would seem to at least violate the 8th Amendment. But that may be changing in Washington based upon a federal decision.

The 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the 2000 ruling of a district judge in Spokane. That judge had ruled that Washington state’s felon disenfranchisement law did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former prison inmate from Bellevue.

The two appellate judges ruled that disparities in the state’s justice system “cannot be explained in race-neutral ways.”

I’m not sure I find the reasoning here very convincing. These laws do disproportionately affect minorities, but that would seem to be an issue of law enforcement in the first place, not voting rights. One could say bans on ex-cons carrying guns also disproportionately affect minorities, but that doesn’t mean the ban should be overturned.

There is one caveat to that, however. Some states (especially in the south, surprise surprise), specifically did institute these laws to disenfranchise black voters. I’m not sure how a court decision could tease everything out, but it would seem that the appellate court’s reasoning would apply to those states.

But under all this is a more important question: Why aren’t felons allowed to vote? Isn’t the goal to rehabilitate prisoners? Don’t we want to better integrate them into society? Even for lifers, don’t we want them to be a part of a process that isn’t self-destructive and destructive to the lives of other prisoners (and prison officials)? If anything, voting should be encouraged for felons. Disallowing their votes seems to be nothing more then petty revenge, not something remotely helpful to either the prisoners or society.

It's never quite articulated

You’ve got your younger Earth creationists and then the old Earth creationists. The YECs have their story laid out pretty clear. Humans and everything else came into existence 6,000 years ago with no evolution. Okay, got it. Stupid, but I’ve got it. But what I don’t get is the OECs. What dates do they propose for the introduction of animals? When did humans first appear? We certainly haven’t been around 4 billion years. Not 3 billion. Not 10 million. It’s more like 100,000. But how do these crazies match up all the evidence? What was walking around 100,000 years ago? Was it human? How about 40,000 years ago? Human? If not, then what? If so, then why did God wait another 37,000 years to start getting chatty?

It’s never quite articulated

You’ve got your younger Earth creationists and then the old Earth creationists. The YECs have their story laid out pretty clearly. Humans and everything else came into existence 6,000 years ago with no evolution. Okay, got it. Stupid, but I’ve got it. But what I don’t get is the OECs. What dates do they propose for the introduction of animals? When did humans first appear? We certainly haven’t been around 4 billion years. Not 3 billion. Not 10 million. It’s more like 100,000. But how do these crazies match up all the evidence? What was walking around 100,000 years ago? Was it human? How about 40,000 years ago? Human? If not, then what? If so, then why did God wait another 37,000 years to start getting chatty?

Federal same-sex marriage case to begin soon

A federal case is set to start in the coming days. At issue is the federal constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 bill that passed, damaging the lives of thousands of Californians and ignoring the rights of every last one of them. I’m sure it will be some time until this reaches the Supreme Court (where Scalia will not consider any legal issue), but it will certainly get there.

Interestingly, one of the opponents of equal rights has asked to be dropped from the lawsuit. Since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown correctly refused to mount a defense for California, others had to step in. One was Hak-Shing William Tam, an official bigot and proponent of Prop 8.

On Friday, Tam told the court that he was harassed and his property vandalized during the campaign, and feared similar retribution if he continued to represent gay marriage foes’ interest in the lawsuit and trial, which is scheduled to start Monday in San Francisco.

“In the past I have received threats on my life, had my property vandalized and am recognized on the streets due to my association with Proposition 8,” Tam said in a court filing. “Now that the subject lawsuit is going to trial, I fear I will get more publicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

While the guy is a scumbag, he doesn’t deserve that. Dare I say, the actions toward him represent, gasp!, bigotry! No one has to accept Tam’s beliefs, but tolerance is required.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 203 other followers