Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Three Hots, a Cot, and an Absentee Ballot

I'm conflicted again, folks.

Yesterday , the Indianapolis Star reports that State Representative Bill Crawford got permission for some folks to register inmates at the Marion County Jail who were charged BUT NOT YET CONVICTED after getting permission from Sheriff Anderson.


On to the first side of my conflict... I think people usually only do things that benefit their "side" politically. This means that Representative Crawford believes he can get more D votes out of jail than R votes. Yow! Doesn't that cause some concerns from a public relations standpoint? To have the Democratic Party be known as the party that gets votes from the pokey?!?

But the other side of my conflict is this... We also have a presumption of innocent until proven...ha ha ha hah...oh, that's funny, isn't it? I can't keep a straight face. Seriously, is there anybody in America who still believes that? We're so quick to judge. I realize the only way you can conclude that the Democratic Party is the "criminal" party is to just assume all these guys/gals are guilty even before their trials. But I know that is what everybody is going to do. You're thinking it right now, so quit acting like you're not!

But let's say they are guilty. Until the day of that conviction, they can vote. When they do their time, regardless of what the crime is, they should be able to vote again. I think it's completely idiotic to take someone's vote away permanently for being convicted of a crime, yet 14 states have laws permanently disenfranchising convicted felons. Several others extend the prohibition for probation and parole. http://www.hrw.org/reports98/vote/usvot98o.htm

If they're going to take away this right, which is the protector of all other rights, then they should also make sure that nobody who has been convicted of a felony pays taxes after serving their sentence. Taxation without a vote is no different than taxation without representation.

My other concern, which may be viewed as conspiratorial )but is really only grounded in a simple truth that politicians seek political advantages) is that if you can truly tell that a particular people, let's say African-Americans as a silly example, are more likely to vote for one political party's candidates...say Democrats by a 90% to 10% clip, just as a for instance. And suppose, also, as a crazy hypothethical, that your prison population is disproportionately African-American. Might there be some less than flattering reasons why some Republicans pass laws extending the prohibition to parolees and probationers? Also, as almost every state prohibits convicts from voting while they're in prison, might there be some less than flattering reasons why certain crimes would be disproportionately punished, for example, by giving longer sentences to people who possess crack than people who possess powdered cocaine of the same amount after it is determined that certain people, say African-Americans are more likely to possess crack and others, say white people, are more likely to have a "mountain of snow" (to quote Ludacris)?

Seriously, can someone walk me through the thought process on disenfranchisement of felons. Is it as simple as, "We don't want inmates to vote because THEY'LL VOTE FOR CROOKS!"

If so, my retort is....yeah, and so will a lot of the NON-convicts in Ohio (the home of Jim Trafficant and Bob Ney), Louisiana (the home of William Jefferson), California (the home of Randy "Duke" Cunningham), and Texas (the home of Tom Delay), just to name a few.



varangianguard said...

Pokey, cemetery, skid row...whatever it takes.

The duties of citizenship are a serious responsibility that all Americans (alive, or not) should hold paramount. Fortunately, for those Americans who have become existence-challenged, there are Democratic surrogates immediately available to help fulfill this solemn duty each election day.

Oh BTW, nice post.

Anonymous said...

Are we to believe that Crawford would register them if he thought they were Republicans?

Chris Worden said...

Anon 2:38, of course he wouldn't.

artfuggins said...

This is completely legal until a person is serving time. There are, after all, innocent people in jail. I am not sure why this is news as it has been done for 40 years. I used to go to the jail in the 1970's and register people and get absentee applications.

Chris Worden said...

The only reason it's news (in my opinion) is because it's horrible PR for two prominent black elected officials who are part of an "old guard" clique that a LOT of people (even Democrats) want to oust. It makes Crawford look bad because he's "vote mining" at the jail, and it makes Sheriff Anderson look bad for facilitating it. But the point of my post is to say that even if it's bad PR, there's nothing illegal about what was done here, and short of buying votes, anybody who gets people registered and voting will always get my respect. Jails, nursing homes, college kids away at school...a smart party activist would try all of these.

legaldiva said...

Preach on IPOPA! There's nothing wrong with what happened. The repubs are probably pissed they didn't go in to gather a few votes themselves. It's funny that I wondered whether people awaiting trial, etc. could vote then this article comes out. These people have even more incentive to vote considering their Constitutional rights are on the line. They have more at stake on some issues than the ordinary voter will ever have.

Wilson46201 said...

Years ago, Bill Crawford arranged with Republican Sheriff Joe McAtee for Rev. Jesse Jackson to visit the Jail where Carl Drummer and I registered voters. Very successful!

P.S. At the time, Jack Cottey was in the Legislature and facilitated this good-citizenship activity for Bill Crawford...

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought (or two): perhaps some of these not-yet-convicted jail inmates are already registered to vote. After all, if they are so interested in the political process that seems like something that they would have taken care of before being arrested. And what exactly are the residency requirements for a jail detainee? Do you need to be at your current address (40 South Alabama, presumably) for a minimum period of time? Better cancel that speedy trial demand, huh? What if you get lucky and post bond, or better yet get one of those emergency jail-overcrowding OR's, what does that do to your residency status? If you are a jail inmate do you vote in the precinct where the jail is or do you vote in your home address precinct (even if you have been in jail for several months awaiting trial?) And how do you go about voting anyway? I don't suppose the inmates are carrying state-issued photo ID's around with them on cellblock 4D. Vote absentee? I'm all in favor of eligible, registered voters getting to vote, but my guess is that 80% of the current jail population have never voted in an election in their lives and have never desired to do so.

Anonymous said...

What if anything is being done to remove the ballots of anyone convicted between now and the primary?