Headed Our Way

A good primer on what may be the next racial issue we’ll be hearing about, but not actually dealing with in any substantive or helpful way:

Another public conversation about race may be the last thing the Obama administration wants, but thanks to the Supreme Court, one is very likely on the way. It has been nearly three months since the court “invited” — that is to say, ordered — Solicitor General Elena Kagan to “express the views of the United States” on whether laws that take away the right to vote from people in prison or on parole can be challenged under the Voting Rights Act as racially discriminatory.

The bigger issue of restoration of voting rights to felons has been fought for 10 years at the state level. It’s not new, and it’s not an issue that’s specific to the Obama Administration.
However. Based on the increasingly insane way each and every issue that touches on race has been handled since Obama was elected, I think it’s safe to say this will be presented in the most explosive and least sympathetic way possible.
If one or another conservative activist submits a grainy, heavily edited video clip to major media that has any tangential relationship to “felons” or “voting”, all bets are off, and it could be a new low. On the current scale, as a reminder, our latest new low was Breitbart versus Sherrod, so lower than that.
Anyway, read the stories in the Sentencing Project Report, because it’s amazing what people will go through to vote.
More here

40 replies
  1. 1

    Based on the increasingly insane way each and every issue that touches on race has been handled since Obama was elected, I think it’s safe to say this will be presented in the most explosive and least sympathetic way possible.


    It has been nearly three months since the court…

    Well gosh, she should’ve been able to whip that out in an afternoon.

  2. 2
    mb says:

    I have never understood the rational for denying felons the right to vote when out of prison. It seems to me that society should encourage, not discourage, civic participation as a part of the rehabilitation process. I can understand that prisoners’ votes could be vulnerable to manipulation but once they are out, I think voing would help them feel more connected to the community and invested in the future.

  3. 3
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    Of all the crap that minorities (particularly blacks) have to deal with, disenfranchising felons has always pissed me off the most. Even the most cursory glance shows that they’re screwed over in the criminal justice system, and without the vote, they can’t do a damn thing about it. The number of black men who can’t vote is just staggering, and any attempt to deal with it just gets you labeled soft on crime.

    Also, I’ve yet to hear a compelling explanation as to why convicts should permanently lose the right (not privilege!). I can understand not letting current prisoners vote, even if I think its unfair. But for me to screw up as an 18 year old and serve a couple years and then never being able to vote again? Bullshit.

  4. 4
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    to screw up as an 18 year old and serve a couple years and then never being able to vote again? Bullshit.

    Hm In Arizona, and I am sure in other states, one petitions the court to restore rights after sentence is served, and in many cases, if the record is clean, the order is just about automatic.

    I am not sure if there is a blacklist of offenses that don’t qualify, but I’ll poke around the Googles and see what I can find.

  5. 5
    burnspbesq says:

    Something for the next SG (interesting how little speculation we’ve heard about that appointment) to look forward to.

    Neal Katyal, who is principal deputy SG and is acting as SG in Kagan’s, umm, absence, would IMO be a fabulous choice, but it ain’t happening. For one thing, he is a person of the brown persuasion. Second, wingnuts have long memories, and there is no way they have forgiven Katyal for his brilliant and courageous representation of Salim Hamdan.

  6. 6
    Mark S. says:

    I don’t see the Supreme Court ruling that people behind bars have the right to vote. What I would like to see is for them to rule that a lifetime ban on felons voting is unconstitutional. If you’re done with your sentence and parole you should be allowed to vote.

  7. 7
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Been a while since last I looked into this; but if memory serves, it’s primarily the states of the Old Confederacy that are the most hardcore about this.

    Interesting coincidence, innit? Almost like the old rebel bastards just din’t want no nigras votin’, hunh?

  8. 8
    kay says:

    @Mark S.:

    I think they probably reach restoration after sentence served (some states are stricter than others) through this more extreme position. That may be the plan here, on the part of the prisoners, but I’m guessing.
    If they reach it at all. There’s no guarantee. The Court just asked for “the views of the United States”.

  9. 9
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    @Ivan Ivanovich Renko:

    Makes sense though. That’s why we need a favorable decision. Don’t worry, Clarence Thomas will vote on the side of reason and compassion.

    ( sound of throat clearing )

  10. 10
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: I’d prefer the right to be restored automatically, rather than having to petition for it. Ex-cons have enough problems as it is to have to jump through hoops for a fundamental right in a democracy. I’d be interested to see what you dig up.

    @Mark S.: That would be just about the best method (I’m assuming that most Americans won’t be cool with letting current prisoners voting). But I have absolutely no faith at all in the current court when it comes to just about anything.

    I read the Greenhouse opinion piece, but this was what was truly striking for me:

    felony convictions have deprived 20 percent of African-Americans in Virginia of the right to vote, compared with a 6.8 percent disenfranchisement rate for Virginia residents as a whole. In Texas, a similar ratio applies: 9.3 percent for blacks compared with 3.3 percent for Texans as a whole. In New York, 80 percent of those who have lost the right to vote are black or Hispanic. Nationally, an estimated one in seven black men has lost the right to vote.

    One in every five blacks can’t vote in Virginia. That’s just appalling.

  11. 11

    And shit, Bush II and Cthcheney were elected TWICE (sort of). Clearly the ban does nothing to keep giggling dipshits and psychos away from the levers of power, so there goes the argument that the ban somehow protects society.

  12. 12
    JWL says:

    When “invited” by the Supreme Court to express the views of the United States, is the Solicitor General mandated to do so? Or is a matter of custom?

  13. 13
    monkeyboy says:

    Just think what might happen if felons in prisons could vote, especially in places like Cañon City and surrounding Fremont County, where the entire economy is based on the large number of state and federal prisons they host.

    As far as I understand it prisoners count as population in the Census which gives certain benefits to a region without there being the downside of their having any say.

  14. 14
    Roger Moore says:

    @kommrade reproductive vigor:

    And shit, Bush II and Cthcheney were Obama was elected TWICE (sort of). Clearly the ban does nothing to keep giggling dipshits and psychos darkies away from the levers of power, so there goes the argument that the ban somehow protects society we obviously need to make it harder for felons to regain the vote.

    I think that’s a bit closer to how supporters of the ban are thinking.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    burnspbesq says:

    Reminder: Christiane Amanpour takes over as host of ABC’s “This Week” tomorrow. In a triumph of hope over experience, I think I will set the DVR.

  17. 17
    Yutsano says:

    @burnspbesq: You are oddly optimistic for a tax attorney I must say. Then again I’d listen to Christiane read the damn phone book I love her voice so much. Plus no one in American television news has half the huevos she does. Anderson sometimes gets close but dammit he needs to get a little dirty once in a while too.

  18. 18
    demo woman says:

    I could never understand why some previous felons are allowed to vote in national elections and some aren’t. I understand states rights, but it seems that the laws should be the same for all voters who vote for President.

  19. 19
    KCinDC says:

    @Ivan Ivanovich Renko, you have it right:

    Addressing the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1902, State Senator Carter Glass spoke approvingly of the state’s plan, which included felony disfranchisement laws, to:

    “eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State in less than 5 years, so that in no single county…will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.”

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    @demo woman: Because there’s no actual constitutional right to vote for president, unless you’re an elector in the electoral college. States are allowed to pick electors anyway they want. Voting, lottery, cage match, what ever.

  21. 21
    Shalimar says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Clarence Thomas wouldn’t know compassion if it bit his nephew in the ass.

  22. 22
    The Dangerman says:

    A good primer on what may be the next racial issue we’ll be hearing about…

    I have my (complete lack of) money on the issue of sharia law being applied in the United States; this appears to be gaining some steam because of the Mosque (that isn’t really a Mosque) being proposed at Ground Zero (it’s not really at Ground Zero). I’m not sure it can be called “next” since Lay Me Lady Sarah has tried to refudiate the (non) Mosque at (not) Ground Zero and Newt (GDIAFMF) have expressed their concerns about the matter; IIRC, Newt even brings up sharia law in his objection.

    How a (non) Mosque (not) at Ground Zero would lead to sharia law being imposed is roughly analogous to Rightwing economic policy, i.e.

    1. Tax Cuts for the Rich Not Mosque
    2. ???
    3. PROFIT Sharia Law

    This appears to belong in the “shit you can’t make up” file, but since we all know the Obama is a closet Muslim…

  23. 23
    kay says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Absolutely. That’s the religious fear mongering category, though.
    There’s already a ” fear of foreign law” category, so it could go in there, too, I guess.

  24. 24
    MikeJ says:

    @The Dangerman: Didn’t Oklahoma just pass a law saying you can’t use Sharia law in OK, which seems like an odd thing to legislate. You would think they would just not pass laws they didn’t like, rather than passing laws against laws.

    I don’t understand wingnuts.

  25. 25
    The Dangerman says:


    That’s the religious fear mongering category, though.

    You could be right; I had it as being racial since Muslims are all brown or black people. I’d almost welcome religious fear mongering against Mormons, but, as we all know, they’re notoriously white.

  26. 26
    Cacti says:

    I predict the “balls and strikes” Roberts Court will interpret voting as more a privilege than a right, and Uncle Ruckus Thomas will lead the charge to make sure the negro riff-raff are kept from the ballot box.

  27. 27
    The Dangerman says:


    I don’t understand wingnuts.

    I’ve come to the conclusion it works something like this:

    CASE 1:

    Are liberals for it? Then must be vehemently against it.

    CASE 2:

    Any possibility of money being spent on people of color or poor people? Then must be vehemently against it.

    CASE 3:

    Any possibility of money being spent on Military Industrial Complex? Then must be fully in support of it.

  28. 28
    Restrung says:

    This is just sad. Bush takes Florida in 2000 thanks to voter caging putting black guys on a spreadsheet as felons. Just lies.

    Meanwhile, here’s my governor being a twit again:

    Incredible, he says. No shit.

  29. 29
    El Cid says:

    The American people will oppose the Democrats’ and Obama’s attempt to arm black felons wearing ACORN badges so as to intimidate older white voters at the polling places.

  30. 30
    Mark S. says:

    @El Cid:

    You just wrote Scalia’s dissent!

  31. 31
    Martin says:

    I think our team will win this one 5-4. The relationship between incarcerating all minorities and then denying them the vote seems to clear to me. Scalia will probably argue that since we should just execute all of the black felons, denying them a vote is almost redundant, but I doubt that’ll win over the group.

  32. 32
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @Restrung: I never cease to be amazed at how strongly Republicans try to de-legitimize any Democratic victory. If a Democrat was elected dog catcher, it must have been because ACORN rigged the election so those scary Negroes could let their fighting dogs roam freely to menace pure innocent conservatives.

  33. 33
    Martin says:


    Bush takes Florida in 2000 thanks to voter caging putting black guys on a spreadsheet as felons. Just lies.

    Lies, or long-term plans?

  34. 34
    Nutella says:

    Speaking of voting rights and disenfranchisement, this is getting passed around lately. It’s a never-ending battle for all of us to get and keep the vote.

    I remember a photo in the paper when South Africa had its first election open to both blacks and whites of two elderly black women hiking across the savannah to vote for the first time, carrying a third woman who couldn’t walk so she could vote, too. I think of that whenever I hear about people not voting here because of a little rain on election day.

  35. 35
    El Cid says:

    @Nutella: And still you libruls fail to notice that lazy parasite woman making those other women carry her around. She’s only going to vote for bigger government so she can prance around with her extra cassava from the government subsidized market. Lazy bums.

  36. 36
    Restrung says:

    Or? Martin?
    This is old news, of course. Been going on since, oh, 13th amendment days. I’m not saying anything new here. This guy is kinda out there from the left, haven’t heard much from him lately. But then I don’t have FSTV anymore and I forget/neglect to listen to Amy on KFAI.

  37. 37
    Restrung says:

    @Nutella: I’d say “Holy Shit!!”, but that would go into bear-pope territory. That’s human shit. I need a palate cleanser. Like a bong hit and a Fosters. freekin’ people, sometimes.

  38. 38
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    Question of the day.

    Did anti-white racism keep minorities away from the Tea Party minority outreach day?

  39. 39
    KCinDC says:

    If this issue does get big, it could give Jim Webb an opportunity to repair the damage done by his “myth of white privilege” op-ed (a lot of which was done by the headline). Webb has been good at talking about the unfairness of our criminal justice system and its affect on African-American communities, and he’s talked about felon disenfranchisement as part of that.

  40. 40
    lambaste says:

    This is yet another issue where conservatives betray their tribalism. A social conservative would typically believe in the power of redemption. But instead they demonize criminals as being incorrigible and, of course, poor. Betcha they’d like white-collar criminals to get their vote back…

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