Speaking at a civil rights conference at Georgetown University, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on 11 states to lift their ban on voting rights for ex-felons, saying these laws disproportionally affect minorities.
The New York Times says Holder described these bans as a “vestige of the racist policies of the South after the Civil War.” Wait, is Holder saying that maintaining a standard of voting that a person must be a law abiding-citizen is a racist policy? Because a felon is defined as someone who has broken a felony statute. And I’m pretty sure anyone of any race can be guilty of that – because the standard is based on a behavior and not a skin color.
If the Attorney General believes that such standards are prejudiced because the justice system is rigged against minorities, then he should focus his time and attention on that issue (without resorting to dismissal of just penalties for crimes that were actually committed). But one suspects this is about something else: the fact that felons tend to vote Democrat.
Why say that? Because Eric Holder is remarkably less interested in ensuring that all military members have the ability to vote than making sure felons do. Military members are over 30% representative of “minority” groups, even higher than the general population, so are “hurdles” to voting for servicemen a reflection of “racist” policies?
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) once pointed out that as many as 1 in 4 military members were disenfranchised in the 2008 election. Despite the passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act to help remedy the situation, requests for absentee ballots in the U.S. military dropped by 70% by the 2012 election- including in the closely contested battleground states of Virginia and Ohio.
As The Hill reported:
The military vote tends to sway Republican, and with recent polls showing President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a virtual dead heat, strong voter turnout by American service members could be the difference between a second term for Obama or a Romney White House.
But in September, an investigation by the Pentagon’s Inspector General found that numerous attempts to reach out to voter assistance offices on military bases overseas went unheeded.
But with Attorney General Eric Holder, everything is about “race,” even those voter ID laws that help ensure elections integrity based on what even the United Nations finds to be a fair standard of ensuring that “all citizens who have reached the required age” may vote in elections. There is no standard that affects all American citizens equally, as the Democrat Party continuously implies (without any real accusations that it is the party being racially biased); and thus, we should do away with standards, laws and procedural integrity.
This move to “emancipate” felony criminals is the latest in a series of actions that Attorney General Holder has taken linking civil rights with criminal justice. But why stop with voting rights for felons? If people are unjustly in prison, then aren’t their other civil rights being violated since they are being denied freedom?
Holder has previously sued states to overturn voter-identification laws and has pushed for lower mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Last month he joined with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a call to end “overzealous” classroom discipline policies which they say target minorities.
Holder has no authority to change state laws, and the New York Times report found that the eleven states targeted will likely not be swayed.
“Eric Holder’s speech from Washington, D.C., has no effect on Florida’s Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote,” said Frank Collins, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.
The 11 states targeted by Holder are Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming, Tennessee and Virginia. Felon voting-rights laws vary greatly from state to state. Some states require a waiting period before they can re-register to vote. Felons in Maine and Vermont can vote while still in prison.
The Department of Justice might rightly be concerned with rooting out any vestiges of racism, but looking for racial premises to giving felons the legal authority to vote in elections overlooks that the purpose of voting is to ensure representation in America’s political system. On the other hand, pushing to give felony criminals representation in the U.S. government might be one of the most appropriate moves of the Obama administration.