From Our Prescott Valley Correspondent
Convicted felons should not automatically be granted voting rights, and if voting rights are to be restored, it is up to the individual state legislatures to determine what constitutes the issuance of full voting rights to a convicted felon and whether he or she is eligible for restoration of those rights.
The Constitution inherently allows the states to adopt rules concerning the allowance or disallowance of voting. It is spelled out in the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution, section 2, which states that it is up to the states to decide which crimes could be grounds for disenfranchisement. In most cases, felonies are grounds for disenfranchisement. Currently, most states have either changed their laws on voting rights or have instituted laws to simplify the restorative process. Over the last eight years, state laws have continued to alternate between curtailment and restoration of voting rights.
It appears that the CNN report concerning Donald Trump’s outreach to African American Virginian voters injected an element into the picture that both relates African Americans with felonies and takes issue with restoration of the voting rights of felons. The report appears to be a questionable news ploy by the network to misconstrue what was said by Trump while making CNN appear biased in relating black voters to felons.
In Trump’s appeal to black voters, he criticized the actions of Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe’s executive order attempts to restore voting rights to felons in the state. CNN reported McAuliffe’s plan involved helping black felons who were thought to be unfairly affected by lifetime voting bans. There were no statistics in the CNN report that entailed just what percentage of African American felons would qualify for reprieves, which associated Trump’s outreach to black voters of Virginia as an overture to felons.
In late July, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled against McAuliffe’s executive order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons. The court asserted that no Virginia governor has the power to grant such pardons in relation to the Virginia Constitution. The chief justice in the case stated that never before had he seen any of the prior governors of Virginia issue such a clemency order to a class of felons without any regard to the nature and circumstances of their crimes. In spite of the ruling, McAuliffe has vowed to sign direct orders to restore the voting rights of those convicted and he recently did so with 13,000 felons in defiance of the court’s ruling. His predecessor, Tim Kaine thought about the same type of executive order for voting rights restoration but was advised that he could not issue such an order.
In a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 (Alexander v Mineta ), the court confirmed a district court’s interpretation that the Constitution “does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote, and the state legislatures wield the power to decide who is qualified.” It is clear that the ruling is defining the vote as a privilege (rather than an inherent right) that is either given or withheld by state or local governments. The Constitution actually mentions voting rights a number of times but mostly in the sense of protecting them. Issuance of voting rights is not given on a whole scale basis to anyone and everyone.
No convicted felon, in spite of his or her race, should be allowed to vote until he or she has gone through the restorative or petition process of their respective state, or has been totally vindicated of a felony-related crime. Large numbers of convicted felons should not be given blanket amnesties or be allowed to subvert the law in order to vote. No candidate, governor or other elected official should be permitted to manipulate an election by recruiting unqualified voters under the guise of leniency towards criminals and justice for black criminals. Restoration should be on a case by case basis that is subject to the laws of the state.