TruthToTell Oct 8: FELON VOTING: Deserved or Disenfranchised? - AUDIO PODCAST BELOW
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If you were convicted of a felony in Minnesota or any other state and as of Election Day you are NOT incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or supervised release, YOU CAN VOTE! In fact, the minute you have completed your felony sentence and are "off paper," you can register to vote OR you can register at your polling place on Election Day.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor you NEVER lose your right to vote. If you are in jail on Election Day and are not serving a felony conviction sentence, you have the right to vote by absentee ballot.
From time to time, we find it imperative to talk about incarceration rates in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States – and the toll such imprisonment – behind bars and out front of them – takes on a huge slice of our humanity and that of those incarcerated.
The lifetime branding of anyone jailed for anything in the US is devastating to them, but also to the community and families from which they come and to which most will one day return.
We’ve taken on an ethos about imprisonment and punishment that is uniquely American in its cruelty and disproportionate impact on offenders from poverty and, more often than not – of color.
In an excellent New Yorker Magazine piece, “The Caging of America,” Adam Gopnik quite eloquently relates the following on this subject earlier this year:
“…no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia—anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded.
“For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.
“The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that.”
Burning up the wires now, among other issues, is the proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment requiring a state-issued photo ID to vote or even register at the polls in future state elections. The ballot question is seen by many as a remedy for fraud that is very hard to prove and harder to be concerned about at the rate of illegal voting supporters keep citing as the reason why Minnesota should back away from its very liberal methods for ensuring higher turnouts than in any other state in the union.
Not so liberal are the various rights accorded those exiting jails and prisons after convictions have imprisoned them either physically or with paper – paroles and probation – at least in Minnesota, among them the right to vote. ((Other states have varying rules about the extent of such limitations.) The restriction is limited to felons (vs. the less severe misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors) and others adjudged incompetent or under guardianship (this is under major challenge as well). But it is the felons who voted in the last election that Voter ID proponents believe justifies this much broader restriction on voting – as if by voting, all of these offenders and ex-offenders are committing fraud by casting ballots, and purposely distorting the popular vote in this state.
The question for us is: Why? Why do we deny the voting franchise to convicted offenders at all? And, if we must deny the franchise to these men and women – most of whom are citizens of color – why should they not be allowed to vote after leaving prison, parole or not, probation or not? What are the percentages in essentially removing the citizenship of men and women who have done time or remain incarcerated? Just how much punishment is required of people who have already had their freedom to move freely outside of prison taken away?
Eventually these rights must be restored, but is it really all that important to deny the voting rights of anyone considered a citizen of the US, the state, the city in which they live?
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI talk with post-incarceration advocates and at least one political animal who supports the law as it stands.
- Length: 56:05 minutes (51.34 MB)
- Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)