Republicans unlikely to give up their excuse for the War on Voting.
Talking Points Memo:
State restrictions on early voting, voter ID laws and regulations on voter registration groups have been getting a lot of attention this year because of the impact they could have on the 2012 election. But there’s at least one voting issue that advocates say deserves more focus: the disenfranchisement of former felons.
Nationwide, the approximately 5.3 million Americans with felonies (and, in several states, those with misdemeanor convictions) are kept away from the polls, according to the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU). The organization is sponsoring the Democracy Restoration Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), which would create a federal standard for restoring the voting rights of felons. The ACLU doesn’t have any pipe dreams about passing the law this year, but they’re holding out hope it will have a chance with a more favorable Congress.
The issue of restoring the voting rights of former felons has long been a goal of civil rights groups, who say it is a hold over of the Jim Crow era. But other than a brief appearance in a Republican presidential debate this year after a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC launched ads attacking Rick Santorum for his support of giving felons the right to vote after they served their time, the issue hasn’t gotten much attention.
I’ve always thought the disenfranchising felons for life was just wrong. When people pay their debt to society, they should be solid citizens again. That just seems to be common sense.
But Republicans aren’t going to be eager to address this problem for one simple reason; it’s almost their entire rational for their War on Voting. Sure, there’s that whole phony “tough on crime” act, but make a republican give you a list of people who’ve committed “voter fraud” and you’ll see it’s almost exclusively felons voting. It’s a little dishonest to call this “fraud,” since the majority of these cases are probably mistakes — the felon doesn’t know the law and thinks his voting rights came back with the rest of his civil rights.
If Republicans took up the cause of enfranchisement for former felons, they’d be killing off their one slim excuse for things like voter ID and the end of same day registration. Those list of cases of “voter fraud” — already ridiculously short — would become even shorter.
It may be the right thing to do, but Republicans will never do it. Then they’d have no excuse to cheat at democracy.