Sharon Brown and Roger Clegg wrote an Op-Ed in the LA Times newspaper and it was featured in the Thursday, June 17, 2010 edition of the Tacoma News Tribune under the heading: "9th Circuit should rule against using Voting Rights Act to let felons vote" in which they have filed an amicus brief in the case of Farrakhan v. Gregoire, challenging the ruling that the State of Washington is violating the Constitution. Their disagreement over the plaintiff [Farrakhan] using the Voting Rights Act as it derives from the 15th Amendment to prove that African-Americans are systematically and unfairly disenfranchised by being denied the right to vote as the result of a felony conviction because of disproportionate representation among overcrowded prison populations, receiving higher incarceration rates per the general population, and given longer prison terms, seem to have merit as a basis-in-fact; although the penal and Criminal Justice System is a failure as an institution, and it is inherently racist as well as biased against those who are poor, illegal or undocumented citizens and indigent.
Before weighing in on this matter further, it seems prudent to read the US Constitution to find out what it says about the "right" to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment, Section 1, says: "The right of citizens" of the United States to VOTE shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of (1) race, (2) color, or (3) previous condition of servitude. The Nineteenth Amendment says: "The right of citizens" of the United States to VOTE shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any other State on account of (4) sex [gender]. The Twenty-Fourth Amendment, Section 1, says: "The right of citizens" of the United States to VOTE in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, or for Senator or for Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of (5) failure to pay any poll tax or other tax. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment, Section 1, says: "The right of citizens" of the United States, (6) who are eighteen years of age or older, to VOTE shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
The aforementioned Constitutional Amendments are the minimum set of guidelines that are set forth by the Founding Fathers of this Democratic Republic to guarantee that every person and their posterity, in order to enjoy the full rights of citizenship and freedom, to establish for the common good and to promote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, the right to "vote" is certainly among these most cherished of our lofty ideals. Not only that, but even the First Amendment guarantees the Freedom of Speech, and voting is a part of that "Right." For any State to enact "Felon Disenfranchisement Laws" to keep felons from voting is clearly 'unconstitutional.' According to the opinion of Ms. Browne and Mr. Clegg, "The Constitution 'explicitly assumes' that felons be barred from voting," but where in the Constitution does it explicitly or implicitly say that? They go on to say, further: "There are certain minimum and 'objective' standards of trustworthiness, loyalty, responsibility, and those who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens don't meet those standards." Are they saying in effect: "If you are not living a morally excellent life or as a 'saint,' then you don't have the right to VOTE?" Have they ever heard this statement: "Those of you without sin, be the 'first' to cast a stone at her?"
This is certainly not to excuse any of the totally reprehensible and heinous acts that felons do time and time again, but unless in the commission of these deplorable and sometimes unforgivable acts, they are deprived or stripped of the privilege of 'citizenship,' then any one of them has just as much a right to VOTE as the next law-abiding, hard-working, honest, and God-fearing or not, average citizen.
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
June 17, 2010
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