If there is anything positive to say about the 2016 elections, it's that they have finally forced an end to the official denial of computerized election rigging. In the past month, the fact that our voting technology is a hacker's paradise has been validated by no less than all the major TV news networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, USA Today,The Hill, The Guardian, Mother Jones, Politico, and a dozen other outlets.
The time has come to translate widespread outrage about voter suppression into momentum for an actionable voting-rights agenda.
The spring of 1966 was a harrowing yet hopeful period in America’s electoral history. In March of that year, the Voting Rights Act survived a Supreme Court challenge from the attorney general of South Carolina. Civil-rights campaigners could finally breathe at least a tentative sigh of relief as public officials across the country began initial preparations for the first federal election following passage of the landmark law for which King and countless others had toiled for years.
Fast-forward 50 years, and the scene is just as harrowing, but—tragically—far less hopeful. Voter-suppression tactics in 2016 are spreading like a virus in our body politic. In the first presidential primaries since the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA and opened the floodgates for passage of voter-suppression laws in states, the impacts are already evident. Whereas voting rights were ascendant in 1966, voter-suppression tactics are spreading in 2016. Whereas Congress was moving in the right direction in 1966, in 2016, it’s often conspicuously absent.
The challenge this year—the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the VRA—isn’t just protecting free and open access to the ballot; it is also rekindling the fire that forced federal action on voting rights. This means reigniting a national movement for restoration of the Voting Rights Act, vigorous federal enforcement of electoral rights, and a reversal of anti-democratic state voter-suppression laws. With our country at a political turning point, time is of the essence.
As The Nation’s Ari Berman and others have methodically reported, the far-right’s well orchestrated voter suppression strategy—focusing on voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls, polling place reduction, and rolling back early voting requirements—has actually resulted in a rekindling of Americans’ 1960s-style resolve in defense of the right to vote. Look at Aracely Calderon, a naturalized citizen from Guatemala, who stood at the back of a 700-person, four-block line and waited five hours to vote in the Arizona primary. Or Dennis Hatten, an African-American Marine veteran, who enduredseemingly endless bureaucratic hurdles to get a Wisconsin photo ID after being told his other forms of identification—including a veteran’s ID—were insufficient under that state’s new draconian voter-ID law. There is no shortage of courage and grit in the face of these abuses.
However, we need more than individual resolve to overcome the systemic injustice of voter suppression. We need a broad-based movement for legislative change. Many voter-ID laws—which 36 states have now enacted in varying forms—will have their first test in the 2016 general election. An analysis by Nate Silver for The New York Times shows that these laws can decrease turnout by between between 0.8 and 2.4 percent—a potentially decisive amount in highly competitive elections. Other academic researchsupports anecdotal findings that voter-ID laws have disproportionate impacts on minorities and immigrants, expanding the participation gap between white and nonwhite members of the electorate.
The time has come to translate widespread outrage about voter suppression into momentum for an actionable voting-rights agenda. The first step is building awareness of the legislative fixes that are available right now.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Shelby ruling—which paved the way for widespread state voter suppression by eliminating the requirement that jurisdictions with histories of discrimination obtain Department of Justice preclearance for any changes to voting laws—there was hope that Congress would act to mitigate the damage. Then-House majority leader Eric Cantor traveled to Selma with Representative John Lewis’s civil-rights pilgrimage and declared his intention to find a bipartisan solution. Unfortunately, in the wake of Cantor’s departure, the Republican Congress has balked at even discussing the issue. Both the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendments Act, HR 885, and the Voting Rights Advancement Act, HR 2867, are viable options for Congress to turn the tide against state-based voter suppression tactics. While not a panacea, these proposed post-Shelby VRA fixes would help end voter-access crises of the kind already on display in Arizona, North Carolina, and elsewhere by restoring the preclearence requirement in up to 13 states.
Voter protection is just the start of a legislative agenda for election integrity–which must also address issues like modernization of voting machines, absentee balloting, willful misinformation, felon disenfranchisement, partisan election administration, untrained election staff, and many others. On April 21, we’ll be participating in a special briefing on Capitol Hill—including the Rev. William Barber, Ari Berman, and others—to draw attention to the crisis of election integrity and to identify policy options for restoring our democratic institutions. This is the first of a series of efforts to bring the rising passion for voter protection to the halls of Congress.
The cause of voter protection is unique in that it can unite people from across the disparate areas of the progressive movement. Whether someone cares most about civil rights, campaign finance, climate change, reproductive rights, or global peace—fair and transparent elections are an absolute requirement for success. Election protection demands a fusion movement.
We’ve seen what happens when people are mobilized and organized in strategic action to defend the right to vote. Though African Americans were nearly absent from voter rolls in the deep south in the early 1960s, by late 1966, just four of the traditional 13 Southern states had African-American voter-registration levels under 50 percent. By 1968, even Mississippi had a 59 percent registration rate among African Americans. That progress was directly attributable to an indefatigable people’s movement that achieved tangible legislative change.
This year, voting-rights advocates are rightfully rushing to address the short-term barriers to the ballot box—getting people the required IDs, ensuring the presence of adequate polling sites, and protecting people from being purged from voter rolls. This is essential work. But we must also seize this moment and build broad momentum for a long-term election integrity agenda that can take hold in municipal buildings, in statehouses, and on Capitol Hill.
Friday, 29 April 2016 09:55
By Ben Ptashnik and Victoria Collier, Truthout | News Analysis
Congressional briefings are typically dull affairs, usually with only a few dozen participants, but it was standing room only in a House Judiciary Committee hearing room on April 21, when nine members of Congress, their staff and 200 activists gathered to address the present crisis in US democracy: voter suppression and the manipulation of US elections.
In 2016 - the first presidential election since the US Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act - a slew of new malicious laws and tactics are disenfranchising millions of Americans, even as the private control of US vote-counting technology has come under renewed scrutiny in a primary season marked by allegations of fraud and election rigging.
Nine members of Congress condemned the "new Jim Crow" laws that have been forced on over half the states in the US.
This high-stakes, emotionally charged election cycle has seen widespread closure of polling locations, unprecedented voter roll purges, voting machine failures and extreme waiting lines that cause countless voters to turn away without having cast a ballot. Many have been given "provisional" ballots that are simply not counted. Irregularities in Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin and New York have engendered intraparty accusations and lawsuits, exposing a dysfunctional and often undemocratic election process.
The nine members of Congress who spoke, all from predominantly minority districts, loudly condemned the "new Jim Crow" laws that have been forced on over half the states in the US, and which the lawmakers believe were designed to deliberately suppress voters in their districts, particularly people of color, the poor, the elderly and students.
Representatives included the dean of the House and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, and longtime civil rights champion Elijah Cummings. Others who made passionate and sometimes angry statements included Representatives G. K. Butterfield (co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus), Sheila Jackson Lee, Terri Sewell, Maxine Waters, Marc Veasey, Alma Adams and Hank Johnson.
The briefing's sponsors, the National Election Defense Coalition and the Transformative Justice Coalition, support the urgent call for a new legislative agenda and political fusion movement to protect democracy, restore voting rights and ensure that every ballot cast is also counted in a secure, public, transparent process.
"There is a very insidious, treacherous and deceitful method of voter suppression, and it has to do with the integrity of the voting process itself."
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) brought much needed attention to a crucial aspect of the election crisis: the aging, hackable voting technology used nationwide. Johnson cited the fact that the vote-counting software in these machines is still programmed by a cadre of private companies on proprietary software inaccessible to elections officials and the public.
"There is a very insidious, treacherous and deceitful method of voter suppression," stated Johnson, "and it has to do with the integrity of the voting process itself."
As the Brennan Center for Justice recently reported, the United States' current voting systems are falling apart over a decade after they were bought with $3.9 billion in funds allocated by Congress in the Help America Vote Act. "How many of you believe that we should be using a touch-screen voting machine that is 10 years old, operating on year 2000 technology and software, with no security upgrades available for more than a decade?" asked Johnson.
Johnson touched on the concerns of both voters and candidates in this election season when he discussed the well-known vulnerability of these voting systems to internal error, fraud and outsider hacking -- claims supported by top computer scientists and cybersecurity experts from MIT, Princeton, the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Labs and many others whose warnings have largely been unheeded.
"Can you imagine why we have had elections where polls predicted that a certain person would win the election by five points and then it ends up the person loses the election by 10 points? Well, one possibility, and I think it's a very good one, is that someone's manipulating the counting of the votes. Someone is hacking into these computers that tabulate the votes," Johnson said.
The partisan control of voting technology has been a longstanding concern of Prof. Robert Fitrakis, Ph.D. and J.D., who testified on the widely contested 2000 election, which was marked by voter suppression of people of color, and on his involvement as a lawyer in contesting the 2004 elections, in which the computer architecture of election night was in the hands of far-right-wing partisan companies and election officials.
"The most dangerous thing in our democracy right now is the fact that partisan, for-profit corporations using secret proprietary software provide the voting hardware and the software to register us to vote, count our votes and report election results," Fitrakis said. "I want to know why these private companies who are not using open-source software are counting our votes, registering our votes and then doing the central tabulation."
To save democracy, it's important to both take to the streets and take to the Hill.
This week, to begin addressing some of these problems, Johnson will introduce the Verifying Optimal Tools for Elections Act of 2016 (VOTE Act). The bill calls for state-controlled, open-source programming of all voting technology, and provides more than $125 million in Help America Vote Act grants to assist states in replacing voting machines. The bill would also allocate $50 million in grants for training poll workers, adopting new voting technologies and safeguards, and, crucially, removing control of voting machine source code software from private vendors.
There are also clear legislative strategies for meeting the broader challenge of voter suppression. Congress can act now to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 1659 and H.R. 2867), which has more than 150 co-sponsors in the House and bipartisan support in the Senate. The legislation would restore the Voting Rights Act and help to end the voter access crises.
This battle for democracy comes to a head this year as 32 states have promulgated new laws in response to the fabricated issue of "voter fraud." Sixteen of these states will see their plans go into effect for the first time in the crucial 2016 elections.
"We must emphatically ask the politicians that brought us these new Jim Crow laws to show us the fraud," stated Joel Segal, legislative director of the National Election Defense Coalition and a former staff member for Representative Conyers. He cited a Washington Post report showing that a comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation found only 31 credible incidents of so-called "voter fraud" out of 1 billion ballots cast in the United States.
Barbara R. Arnwine, president of the Transformative Justice Coalition, and former executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, put the current wave of voter suppression laws in the historical context of the poll tax and other attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.
The keynote presenter, Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, and leader of the Moral Mondays protest movement, described the avalanche of voter suppression laws unleashed in North Carolina immediately after the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Barber also helped lead the Democracy Awakening protests that took place outside Congress on April 18, and saw civil rights organizations, unions, social justice groups and environmentalists all standing together to demand the restoration of voting rights and election campaign finance safeguards.
This "inside-outside strategy" embodied in twin actions -- focusing on official congressional actions and grassroots direct action -- is the strategy that Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists employed to transform the political landscape a generation ago. To save democracy, it's important to both take to the streets and take to the Hill.
The briefing sparked movement in the halls of Congress: Rep. G. K. Butterfield announced that voter suppression would now be a top priority of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Many members of Congress articulated the need to translate widespread outrage about election manipulation into an actionable voting rights agenda that protects the coming general election, and all future elections. It is clear that accomplishing that goal will require a political grassroots movement similar to the suffrage and civil rights movements that expanded the vote franchise in the last century.
Conyers noted with pleasure that the crowd at the hearing was marked by racial diversity, which he said would be needed to support a broad-based movement to restore democracy to US elections.
Congressional staff and organizers are planning a series of field hearings and town hall meetings across the nation aimed at giving voice to citizens who were not allowed to vote in the 2016 presidential primaries, and pushing for repeal of voter suppression laws. The first field hearings will be held in Michigan, Texas, Alabama and North Carolina. Further congressional hearings will be scheduled this summer and fall.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
By WILLIAM BARBER II
President, NAACP North Carolina
Moral Mondays Movement leader
APRIL 28, 2016
Durham, N.C. — ON Monday, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, N.C., upheld legislation passed in 2013 that imposed far-reaching restrictions on voting across this state, including strict voter-identification requirements. Judge Schroeder justified his decision by claiming that robust turnout in 2014 proved that the law did not suppress the black vote. But in reality, his ruling defended the worst attack on voting rights since the 19th century.
That attack began almost immediately after a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, which weakened Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act. Section 5 required federal pre-approval of changes to voting laws in places with a history of discrimination, including parts of North Carolina. Within hours of that ruling, lawmakers in Raleigh filed H.B. 589, proposing some of the toughest voting rules in the country. Referring to Shelby, one sponsor expressed his relief that curtailing voting protections could move forward now that the “headache” of the Voting Rights Act had been removed. The Legislature passed the bill, and it was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.
The law eliminated voting rules that had enabled North Carolina to have the fourth best per capita voter turnout in the country. In 2012, 70 percent of black voters used early voting — and cast ballots at a slightly higher percentage than whites. Although black voters made up about 20 percent of the electorate, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration.
The North Carolina Legislature set out to change those figures and suppress minority votes. Its many impediments to voting all disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters. None of their attacks would have survived pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A Republican official defended the law this way: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”
There never was evidence of voter impersonation to justify the voter ID requirements established by the law. Yet the harm of those requirements is clear: At last count, 318,000 registered North Carolina voters — disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos — do not have a driver’s license or a state ID card.
Erroneous Denials and Bureaucratic Bumbling Taking the Franchise Away From Legal Voters
MADISON, Wis. — A new filing in a lawsuit brought by One Wisconsin Institute and other voter rights advocates exposes serious flaws at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the process for providing Wisconsinites with the ID that voters must now produce to cast their ballot at the polls. As part of the voter ID law adopted by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican controlled legislature, individuals are ostensibly able to request a free identification card from the DMV under certain circumstances. But bureaucratic delays and improper denials are preventing otherwise legal voters from obtaining the ID now required to vote.
“There has been a comprehensive, systematic effort in Wisconsin to make voting harder and more complicated for targeted populations by Republican politicians attempting to gain an unfair partisan advantage,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director. “The documented failures of the DMV to provide legal voters with the ID they now need to exercise their right to vote is yet another sad episode in the assault on democracy underway in Wisconsin.”
The suit, filed in federal court in Madison, outlines more than a dozen policies that have made voting in Wisconsin more challenging for eligible citizens and seeks to strike down various restrictive voting measures put in place by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican State Legislature since 2011.
The latest filing by the plaintiffs notes that in the state voter ID case, the state supreme court held that the DMV had to exercise its discretion under the “extraordinary proof” petition process to permit voters to obtain exemptions for having to pay for birth certificates or other government records needed to obtain voter ID. An analysis of this process and numerous examples shows how this process is resulting in otherwise legal voters being denied the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
An internal DMV analysis found an error rate of 27 percent, meaning more than one in four petitions to obtain a voter ID under the extraordinary proof process were mishandled between March and August of 2015. The agency admits numerous instances of petitions being suspended because a person gave up in anger or frustration.
And the problem is expected to get worse. The DMV is expecting increased demand for voter IDs this year due to the presidential election and already reports a backlog of dozens of “open” petitions, has cut back on staff, and has no extra staff or budget allocated to deal with the expected increased demand.
The filing includes several examples of how the DMV process is broken, resulting in eligible individuals being denied IDs, and therefore their right to vote, including:
- Refusing to provide an ID to a woman who had lost the use of her hands and couldn’t sign an application. The woman brought her daughter with her to sign the application and even provided her daughter with power of attorney giving her permission to sign, but the DMV did not allow it;
- Denying the petitions of many eligible voters because of minor discrepancies in the spelling of their names or uncertainties about their exact dates of birth—even though DMV acknowledges it has no doubts these disenfranchised voters are U.S. citizens;
- “Turning away” a senior citizen who had been ‘born in a concentration camp in Germany,’ and his German birth certificate had been lost in a fire. That citizen was ultimately granted an ID, but only after extraordinary effort on his behalf to comply with absurd demands by the DMV.
Ross concluded, “When the DMV erroneously denies someone an ID or their incompetence and bureaucratic delays result in a person giving up in anger or frustration, they are denying a legal voter their right to vote. And that is unacceptable.”
# # #
One Wisconsin Institute is a non-partisan, progressive research and education organization dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.
BY EMILY ATKIN FEB 23, 2016 4:18 PM
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — When Karen Stallings decided to move her blind, 84-year-old father from Arizona into her home in Virginia, she expected many new challenges in her life. She did not expect voting to be one of them.
And yet, a few months before election day rolled around, she realized her father’s drivers license was out-of-state and expired. And under Virginia’s strict voter ID law, every voter needs an acceptable, unexpired form of photo identification to cast a regular ballot. So in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, Stallings drove her father to the DMV to register to vote and get a photo ID card.
By the time we finally got him up to the window, he was so sick, he fell.
What followed was a series of DMV-related calamities that eventually saw her father in the hospital. Stallings described her experience on Tuesday in front of a Virginia federal judge, who is presiding over a heated trial over the state’s voter ID law. The Democratic Party of Virginia claims the law deliberately suppresses voting by minorities, young people, and the elderly.
“Dad has vertigo, so he can’t sit or stand very long,” Stallings explained. There were only two people ahead of her at the DMV, she said, but it took three hours before someone was able to help them. She informed workers of her dad’s condition — people even offered to switch tickets with her. But they needed a specific window, and a specific person to get the new ID. No one could help, so they waited.
“By the time we finally got him up to the window, he was so sick, he fell,” Stallings said. “He was in the hospital the next day.”
Weeks later, Stallings was informed she’d be able to register her father to vote online, using his passport and a bank statement delivered to her house for proof of address. He eventually was able to vote using an absentee ballot. So all was well in the end — but the hoops she had to jump through made her question the effectiveness of Virginia’s voter ID law, which passed despite no evidence of voter impersonation in the state.
By EMILY BAZELON and JIM RUTENBERG
DEC. 31, 2015 New York Times
Over the past year, The New York Times Magazine has chronicled the long campaign that led to the Supreme Court’s 2013 nullification of the Voting Rights Act’s most powerful provision — its Section 5 — and the consequences that decision has had for minority voters. As I’ve written in our Disenfranchised series, the gutting of Section 5 facilitated an onslaught of restrictive new laws that made voting disproportionately harder for minorities across the country, marking the biggest setback to minority voting rights in the half-century since President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a new case, Evenwel v. Abbott, that could also have a significant effect on minority political power — specifically, Hispanic voting power. Evenwel stems from a case first instigated in Texas by the same conservative group — the Project on Fair Representation — that helped bring about the decision gutting Section 5 in 2013. Like all of these big election cases, the issues involved are complicated, which may explain why Evenwel has drawn less media attention than it deserves; it does not reduce easily into sound bites. But the Court’s decision in Evenwel could be among the most important developments in politics in 2016, and well beyond. This series would not be complete for 2015 without a review of the case. My colleague Emily Bazelon and I have done our best to break it down as simply as possible, trading off segments to explain the main legal questions at play, the potential consequences and the likely outcomes. A decision is expected by June of 2016.
The 2016 election is a year away, and many states are holding local elections today, but not everyone will be able to vote.
The 2016 election is one year away and many states and cities hold local elections today. But not everyone will be able to cast a ballot this year or next.
The 2016 election will be the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. Twenty-one states have put new voting restrictions in place since the 2010 election, with voters in 15 states facing these obstacles for the first presidential cycle in 2016, including in crucial swing states like North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting the law, but neither the modest Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 or the more ambitious Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, which both have bipartisan support, have moved legislatively.
Today congressional Democrats unveiled a new strategy to build support for the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill compels states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, requires federal approval for voter-ID laws and similar measures, and outlaws new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote.
Every Tuesday while in session members of Congress will speak about the importance of voting rights, calling it “Restoration Tuesday,” spotlight stories of modern-day barriers to voting and rally on social media with the hashtag #RestoreTheVOTE & #RestorationTuesday.
California election officials are reversing a policy that prevents 45,000 felons from casting ballots, placing the state in the forefront of a movement to boost voting rights for ex-criminals.
California has until now maintained that state law prohibits felons from voting not only when they are in prison or on parole but also when they are under community supervision.
July 6, 2015
Currently, more than 4 million Americans living and working in their communities are unable to vote because of a felony conviction in their past. Antiquated laws continue to deny citizens a stake in their communities, and the population as a whole loses out on the benefits that come from more civically engaged citizens. But the continued challenge does not diminish the real progress the United States has made this century. More people with criminal convictions in their past are able to vote today, and in more states, than they could 20 years ago — and efforts continue at both the state and federal levels to grow that number still. Over the past two decades, more than 20 states have taken action (legislative or executive) to allow more people with past criminal convictions to vote, to vote sooner, or to access that right more easily. That includes reforms in six states over the past five years. And just this year, in 2015, one bill was signed into law in Wyoming, and reform bills moved in at least three additional states.
One key factor in this progress is the growing bipartisan consensus on the need for criminal justice reform, and the recognition that restoring voting rights is a smart-on-crime policy. Leaders of both parties are acknowledging that we imprison too many people for too long, and do not provide adequate opportunities for people to reintegrate into society — rather than recidivate — after they leave incarceration. That recognition has led law enforcement professionals, faith leaders, and public officials from across the political spectrum to endorse voting rights restoration proposals nationwide.
The momentum for voting rights restoration is reflected in both the wave of reforms that have spread throughout the United States in recent years, and the growing number of supporters who see reform as common sense.
The Steady Wave of Reform
The nation’s felony disenfranchisement laws range from lifetime bans on voting for people with felony convictions in three states (Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky) unless a pardon can be obtained, to laws in two states that allow people to vote while serving their term of incarceration (Maine and Vermont). The remaining states exercise a range of policies,many of which have changed in recent years to restore the right to vote to more Americans with past criminal convictions. The recent wave of reform has extended access to the vote to people with criminal convictions through both legislative and executive action, and through a variety of policy changes in more than 20 states.
Rhode Island Restores Voting Rights to Citizens Living in their Community, and Additional States Restore Voting Rights to Tens of Thousands More
Rhode Island implemented the nation’s most extensive recent reform. In 2006, voters approved a ballot measure that allowed citizens to vote when released from prison, or who were never incarcerated in the first place. Additionally, since 2000, three states have fully lifted lifetime bans on voting by citizens with past criminal convictions and now automatically restore the right to vote when a person has completed their sentence, including parole and probation. Together, the legislative efforts to end lifetime felony disenfranchisement in New Mexico (2001), Nebraska (2005), and Maryland (2007) restored the right to vote for more than 160,000 citizens.
For a time, Iowa ended its lifetime ban and automatically restored voting rights for those who completed their sentences. In 2005, then-Gov. Tom Vilsack issued an executive order that allowed approximately 80,000 citizens to vote. A later governor, Terry Branstad, reversed this action, and the state is once again one of three, with Florida and Kentucky, where only the governor can restore a citizen’s voting rights.
Numerous States Have Restored Voting Rights to Some Citizens Living in the Community
Some states selectively restore voting rights to certain citizens in the community. For example, in 2001, Connecticut extended voting rights to citizens on probation, making it one of four states that make a distinction between the voting rights of probationers and parolees. Five states since 2000 have taken action to selectively expand automatic voting rights restoration to those with certain convictions. While these distinctions can impose administrative costs and lead to confusion among both election officials and the general public, the expansion of voting rights restoration remains a positive development for both states and those who qualify for rights restoration.
A subtle change in New York State law could stop #BlackLivesMatter in its tracks.
On Sunday, The New York Postand NY1 reported that the NYPD’s push to make resisting arrest a felony had officially been introduced as a bill before the New York State senate. After both Commissioner Brattonand NYPDpolice union simultaneously trial-ballooned a similar law change a few weeks ago, the plan to make “aggravated” resisting arrest a felony is officially moving forward after State Senator Tony Avella proposed Bill S04260, that would render anyone who “resisted arrest” more than twice in a ten year span a felon. As the Post spelled out:
Resisting arrest will lead to harsher penalties under legislation proposed by a Queens Democrat. State Sen. Tony Avella is behind a bill that would create a felony charge — “aggravated resisting arrest” — for people who have been convicted of resisting arrest twice in a 10-year period.
The justification for the new measures, in typical NYPD victim-blaming spin, is being presented a a way of preventing future Eric Garners:
The legislation is in response to protests last December following a Staten Island grand jury decision not to charge a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
The bill is based off a letter the Lieutenants Benevolent Association sent to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in January requesting an “aggravated resisting” charge.
“This helps everybody,” LBA President Louis Turco told The Post. “Civilians don’t get hurt and officers don’t get hurt.”
Setting aside the now all-too-routine fact that police policy is largely directed by the unelected NYPD brass and then later driven through by compliant state legislators, such a policy would have deeply troubling implications. First off, making resisting arrest a felony would severely and disportionately affect communities of color. As WYNC reported last December, resisting arrest - like all facets of our justice system - is not applied evenly among class and race:
NYPD officers appear to be far more likely to file resisting arrest charges against black suspects than white suspects — with dramatic differences in some parts of the city, according to a WNYC Data News analysis of court records.
Law enforcement experts say resisting arrest charges are a strong indicator that an arrest went bad and a cop had to use force. So, with the death of Eric Garner over the summer during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes, WNYC's Data News team analyzed court records to look at who gets charged with resisting arrest.