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SEATTLE - When he was 22, Willie Robinson shot and killed a woman in the course of a failed carjacking. But in 2002, after 20 years in prison, he was released — and he believes he's paid his debt to society.

Under sentencing laws, the state of Washington agrees. But under another law that bars former felons from voting, he continues to pay.

"I can't vote, and yet I pay taxes toward the salaries of the people who represent me," says Robinson, now a cabinetmaker in suburban Marysville. "Isn't it so that people want us to be productive citizens after getting out? But then we have limited rights to participate. It doesn't make sense."

Robinson is one of about 4.7 million Americans disenfranchised by state laws that suspend or cancel voting rights for people who have committed felonies. He is also African American, putting him in the group of Americans most affected by these laws because blacks are disproportionately convicted of felonies. In some cities, as many as one in three African American men are barred from voting.

The state laws have long been a point of contention among prisoner rights groups. They became a subject of national debate after President Bush won Florida by a razor-thin margin in the 2000 election in a race where voting by ex-felons might easily have changed the outcome.

“What galvanized the debate was the appearance of disenfranchisement law as a tool in electoral combat,” says Alexander Keyssar, professor of history and social policy at Harvard and author of "The Right to Vote."

Part of the controversy was fueled by the conventional, though unproven, notion that African American voters in particular, and people emerging from prison in general, are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans.

Some critics say disenfranchisement laws are little more than an extension of old Jim Crow measures designed to dilute the political clout of African American communities. "Whenever you are talking about prison populations, you are talking about race," says Mervyn Mercano, communications director the Right to Vote Coalition in Washington, D.C.

"The truth is, we're set up to fail," says Robinson, who feels lucky not to have ended up on the streets like many former inmates. Since his release, he has cofounded an organization called Justice Works, which helps inmates emerging from prison with the difficult pursuit of housing, jobs and political rights.

Courts back felon exclusion
The Supreme Court has ruled that states have the right to restrict voting so long as they apply laws equally to all races, even if the outcome is uneven.

A 1985 decision, written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, largely closed the door on arguments about the uneven impact of these laws. The decision notes that the 14th Amendment, which granted all male adults the right to vote, does allow states to exclude people for "participation in rebellion, or other crime."

So while some legal experts argue that the post-Civil War provisions were aimed at excluding traitors — and not, for instance, cattle rustlers — the court allowed states to maintain a broader interpretation of "other crime."

Defenders of these laws say they are not only legal, but logical.

"Somebody who is not willing to follow the law should not claim a right to make the law for everyone else. When you vote that’s what you’re doing," says Roger Clegg, general counsel to the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Washington, D.C., think tank that opposes race-based policy decisions.

Clegg says it makes sense to withhold voting rights, and restore them on a case-by-case basis, depending on the seriousness of the crime, how recently it was committed and whether there were repeat offenses.

The disproportionate impact on African Americans is not a reason to repeal the laws, he says, drawing an analogy: "A disproportionate number of crimes are committed by men, not women, but I don’t think that makes the laws sexist."



Thoughts?



Jen
 

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I'm sick to death of the criminals being made out like they're the victims.

People are saying if the felons had been allowed to vote in FL, it would have swung the election in favor of Gore?? Well, if I was a Dem (which I'm not!), I wouldn't be too proud to admit that.

Pull up some statistics on the number of felons that are repeat offenders. The vast majority of them are not becoming productive members of society.

This "productive member of society" Robinson was complaining about the use of his tax dollars?? What about the fact that his victim's family had their tax dollars used to support his stupid ass in prison. Can you imagine knowing that your tax money was going to buy HIM 3 squares a day, cable TV, and a freakin gym for the man who murdered your daughter???

It makes me sick as hell that this bastard has the nerve to whine about voting. Can his victim vote? Hmmm, lemme see....oh nope- she's DEAD!!!
:finger:


Jen
 

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Wow, Kawi, it's easy to see which way your opinion is swinging.

To be perfectly honest, this guy wouldn't even be alive if I had anything to do with making laws. Life for a life in my book.
 

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he murdered; MURDERED somone in the commission of an ARMED ROBBERY, he shouldn't even be breathing much less walking the streets a free man.:2cents: fucking lawyers:finger:
 

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i'm in agreement with cookeetree on both posts. jail time then letting him go wouldn't be my way to deal with murderers, but since the system we have in place says he's paid his debt to society, and ready to be produtive how can we take away his right to vote? and where do we draw the line for what are "acceptable crimes" and those that remove your right to vote?
:2cents:
 

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I'm not sure exactly where I stand on this. I suppose it would have to be a case by case basis. In this particular one, by knowingly and willingly acting outside of the law he chose to remove himself from rights and priveleges afforded to law-abiding citizens of the country. IMO he should have been executed, however since that didn't happen I see no reason to extend full rights to him. He obviously was not interested in them before. He's lucky to be alive and free, so he should stop pushing his luck. I wonder if he voted at all before commiting his crime. Then again, how severe does a crime need to be to justify taking away someone's voting rights? Murder is a fairly easy one. What about other lesser felonies? Tampering with the mail is a felony, should we take away rights for that?

I dunno....like I said, it's a case by case thing for me.
 

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Re: Re: Right to Vote??

cookeetree said:
He served his sentence.

IMO, his voting rights should be restored.

my thought exactly.....how long should he punished? He was sentenced...went through the court system and did his time. Saying all Felons are a POS is painting with a pretty broad brush......
 

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Thats a difficult one. So I'll back up spicers lack of opinion :).
A case by case basis seems alright, except of the added burden on the system. That and when is that decision made, at the time of sentancing or at the time of release?
Perhaps a longer probation on voting rights after release?
 

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it's a wonder in cases like this that there aren't a whole bunch of vidictive family and friends waiting to lynch the fucker when he gets out of prison. :confused:

there was a murder down in the LA area about 16/17 years ago where a Mexican guy broke into a bikers house and stabbed him like 30 times, the murderer was caught by the CHP on the side of the freeway tring to ditch his bloody ninja clothes, I don't think he ever made it to trial, the bikers friends killed his ass in the county jail.
 

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spicersh said:
...In this particular one, by knowingly and willingly acting outside of the law he chose to remove himself from rights and priveleges afforded to law-abiding citizens of the country...
Gotta be careful with how you word things.

I mean, what percentage of the population can claim to be truly law-abiding? There's a plethora of laws that people break, regularly, just because they think they're minor. Whichever spin you'd like to put on it, they're still breaking the law.

I've heard a lot of people on this forum champion their rights to this and that. At what point do you revoke those rights and are they ever redeemable???
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I mean, what percentage of the population can claim to be truly law-abiding? There's a plethora of laws that people break, regularly, just because they think they're minor. Whichever spin you'd like to put on it, they're still breaking the law.
Oral sex is illegal....how many have broken that law? It is illegal for a man to scowl at his wife on Sunday. It is illegal to let your pig run free in Detroit unless it has a ring in its nose. :rolleyes:


Ok, so the question would be: Where do you draw the line?

Major felonies:

Assault and Battery
Murder
Kidnapping
Robbery
Arson
Drug Trafficking
Gun Offenses
Sex Crimes
Crimes Against Children

No voting for those people. They broke MAJOR laws. These are usually violent crimes. Are these offences proof of a "productive member in society?" When they broke the law, they automatically give up that right. Even with the lower ranking felonies like:

Drug Possession
Theft
Burglary
Domestic Abuse
Fraud
White Collar Offenses (internet fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud)
Aggravated Driving Offenses


Who's to say these people ever voted in the first place? We can't even get law abiding people to vote. If you commit a felony, you don't get the right to vote again. Simple as that. Drunk driver? No more driving. Felony? No more voting. Maybe they could patition to get that right back? Write a letter to the appropriate person asking for the right back because they haven't committed a crime in X amount of years? I'd consider that.



Jen
 

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I would draw the line at: when they finish their sentence leave them the hell alone unless they do somthing that they need to be screwed with some more.....a sentence is just that....when it is over it should be over plain and simple.
 

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Jen brings up a good point as well. How many people even actually vote in the US? The population is what, about 300 million? Popular vote numbers, IIRC, were in the range of 50 million for each candidate in the most recent election. So we're talking about 100 million out of 300 million. 33% voter turnout is not very good, and I would speculate that those involved in violent crimes couldn't even tell you who is in office in their areas, much less who they voted for (because they probably didn't vote in the first place).

I've even seen some people who suggested not allowing those on welfare to vote. Since they are sucking off of the government's tit, they will only vote for those candidates who promise more for them for doing nothing. Essentially, only those actually paying into the system have the right to vote in it. I can see the logic, but still don't necessarily agree with it. I like the 1 person 1 vote thing, though I do think it is acceptable to take away voting rights for major crimes, again on a case by case basis.

Meh, I'm rambling now, and it's time for breakfast. :)
 

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I agree with Judge...to a point. I do feel that some probationary period is applicable upon release from prison (maybe twelve months), and then voting rights should be restored with an application or petition to the appropriate authority. While I feel that it is improper to mandate automatic civil rights violations, such as taking away the right to vote, for anyone who has served his time, the unfortunate truth is that too many people end up BACK in jail within the first twelve months of being released. As it stands now, parole is supposed to be the probationary period utilized in transition from prison to society. Perhaps this period could also be utilized as an evaluation period in determining suitability in voting right restoration.
 

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The probationary period is called parole....once released they should be left alone unless they screw up.....parole is set by a board to a time according to the crime.....come on people...don't you watch TV........
 

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spicersh said:

I've even seen some people who suggested not allowing those on welfare to vote. Since they are sucking off of the government's tit, they will only vote for those candidates who promise more for them for doing nothing. Essentially, only those actually paying into the system have the right to vote in it. I can see the logic, but still don't necessarily agree with it.
Interesting argument. I have to say it does make some sence. But take it a step further. Those paying in a higher bracket should by the same logic get more votes. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with that.
 

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spicersh said:

I've even seen some people who suggested not allowing those on welfare to vote. Since they are sucking off of the government's tit, they will only vote for those candidates who promise more for them for doing nothing. Essentially, only those actually paying into the system have the right to vote in it.
That is a completely totalitarianism idea, Spicersh....if someone doesn't have the same economic status or idea that the majority has, then lets not invite them to the party? :rolleyes: What a completely totalitarian idea... I thought this was a democracy.

As for "paying into the system", I am always amazed at the naivete and arrogance of the average taxpayer. We always seem to rant about how "I PAY MY TAXES, SO I PAY THAT COP'S SALARY!!!" or "I"M PAYING TO HAVE THAT BUM IN JAIL". For the average American taxpayer, thats BS. The individual taxpayer would have to make over $220,000 annually to actually cover the costs for what he and his family utilizes in government services. Here is the general breakdown for your average tax dollar

$ .19
Library System
District Attorney
Elections
Jail and Probationary Services
Land Use Planning
Public Health
Sheriff Departments

$.31
Fire
Police
Elected Officials
Street Maintenance
Parks and recreation
Water facilities
National Guard

$.47
Military planning/spending
Community Colleges
School Districts (varies according to location)
national services (FEMA, CIA, ATF, etc.)

The additional $.03 per tax dollar is variable. Bottom line is, no AVERAGE citizen in our country should feel comfortable enough about what he pays in taxes to think of himself as exclusive. When we start restricting basic citizen rights to one group of people, especially on a financial level, what in the hell makes you think that you couldn't be next?

I know you didnt agree with the line of thinking about welfare people you posted, Spicershe, I just wanted to put out my :2cents:
 
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