Home  |   Jihad Watch  |   Horowitz  |   Archive  |   Columnists  |     DHFC  |  Store  |   Contact  |   Links  |   Search Tuesday, May 22, 2018
FrontPageMag Article
Write Comment View Comments Printable Article Email Article
Jesse Jackson: A Real Con Man By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Saturday, July 19, 2003


IS THE NAACP CHANGING ITS NAME to the National Association for the Advancement of Criminals and Parolees?

On Friday, June 18, the Reverend Jesse Jackson is scheduled to link arms with NAACP leaders in a Montgomery, Alabama, protest march on the Capitol building.  The target of this protest is Republican Governor Bob Riley and his recent veto of a bill that would have expedited the restoration of voting rights to felons who had served their sentences.

To understand why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in recent years has made voting rights for felons one of its top five priorities, consider a 1997 claim by the liberal “Sentencing Project” that state laws deny the vote to 13 percent of African American men in America because of their felony criminal convictions.

Almost all states prohibit voting by felons currently in prison. (Exceptions include Vermont and Maine.) But even after a felon has been released on parole, 13 states restrict that person’s ability to vote.  Nine states still impose lifetime voting bans, even on those who have “paid their debt to society.” (Several of these states offer procedures whereby a felon can petition to become re-enfranchised.)

These laws, by one estimate, bar approximately 4.2 million felons and ex-felons from voting.  Of these, 1.3 million – almost 31 percent – are African Americans, a demographic group that in the 2000 Presidential election voted more than 90 percent for losing Democratic candidate Al Gore.  White felons, according to recent research, disproportionately come from poor and working class backgrounds, have less education than most Americans, and therefore also are more likely to be Democratic voters.

Mr. Gore’s loss was sealed by Florida, where nearly seven percent of the population is disenfranchised by a law that generally prohibits voting by those convicted of a felony. Analysis of the 2000 vote in Florida revealed that Gore came close to winning only because as many as 5,000 felons illegally voted.  We do not know for whom they cast secret ballots, but various county records show that 75 to 82 percent of these criminals typically had registered as Democrats.

How big is this potential voter pool that (all scholars in the field agree) would disproportionately vote Democratic?  According to one study, in year 2000 the portion of disenfranchised felons exceeded six percent of the total voting age population in Florida, Alabama and New Mexico. It topped five percent in Virginia, Mississippi and Delaware. And it was more than four percent of the potential electorate in Wyoming, Kentucky, Georgia, Nevada, Iowa and Arizona. 

The margin between winner and loser in political races is frequently less than four percent, and therefore in all the above states the votes – or non-votes – of convicted felons could easily be the margin of victory.

In Alabama, for example, as David White of its Birmingham News reported, “62.4 percent of the 28,406 people in state prisons were black.  Blacks in Alabama tend to vote heavily Democratic.” And, noted White, Governor Riley, a Republican who just vetoed easing restrictions on felon voting, last November 5 ousted incumbent Democratic Governor Don Siegelman by “about 3,000 votes” statewide.

This is why the Democratic Party and its auxiliary organization, the NAACP, salivate at the thought of winning this pivotal issue, as this column has previously discussed. 

This is why the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a press conference days before Friday’s planned march in Montgomery: “The criminal justice system is now being broadly applied and is determining the outcome of elections all across the country.”

Had felons and ex-felons been allowed to vote in all states in 2000, Al Gore today would be President of the United States.

Moreover, according to a 2001 analysis titled The Truly Disfranchised: Felon Voting Rights and American Politics by Jeff Manza and Marcus Britton of Northwestern University and Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota, if felons had everywhere been allowed to vote, as many as five to seven U.S. Senate seats that went Republican would probably have been held or won instead by Democrats.  As a result, “Democrats may well have controlled the Senate throughout the 1990s.”

The three scholars calculate if today’s rates of felon conviction and imprisonment had removed convicted voters from the rolls back in 1960 (today’s rates are five-times-higher), Richard Nixon probably would have defeated John F. Kennedy and become President. Imagine how that might have changed history. We might have had no Vietnam War, no war-driven radicalization of our politics, but also no conservative transformation of the Republican Party via Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan beginning in 1964.

The debate over felon voting rights raises a host of issues.  Should we assume that outlaws should have no voice in making law?  Or that today’s criminal, after years in prison, cannot mature into a responsible citizen who deserves to regain an equal voice at the ballot box in our democratic republic?Are the most serious criminals – felons – inclined to think like criminals for their entire lives?  Some critics would say that those who vote for a political party that at gunpoint takes the earnings of productive citizens and transfers that wealth to buy the votes of unproductive welfare cheats are not significantly different from being thieves themselves. 

As George Bernard Shaw famously said, “Those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul’s support.” And on Paul’s votes.  But why give a convicted felon a ballot that can be used like a bullet to empower a robber-politician’s gun?

Do we want our politicians pandering for the votes of felons?  Or making government policy designed to win their votes and serve those constituents?  Do we want America to become a felonocracy?

The kinds of compromises struck by Republicans such as Connecticut Governor John Rowland have been to restore the voting rights of those let out on probation, or of those who committed non-violent crimes. 

The proposed felon voting law in Alabama vetoed by Gov. Riley would have continued to deny votes to those convicted of murder, rape, child abuse, pornography and certain other crimes.  But, Gov. Riley noted sardonically, it would have restored the vote to felons convicted of election fraud.

Meanwhile in California, embattled Democratic Governor Gray Davis this week signed into law a measure to further restrict the gun rights not only of felons, but also of many convicted of mere misdemeanors.

But, as I sometimes ask liberal callers to my radio show, if you believe voting rights should be restored to felons who have “paid their debt to society,” will you not also restore to them their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms?  No, reply liberals, because even the tiniest crime committed in one’s youth should forever end your right to buy, own or carry a firearm. But then why should it not also end your right to vote to use state power against millions of people?

Even more hypocritically, this week the operatives of Governor Davis filed a lawsuit to invalidate the petition signatures of California citizens demanding his recall. Under California law, says this lawsuit, such signatures are invalid if the person collecting the signatures has ever been convicted of a felony.  According to Davis operatives, two such felons – later employed by Davis, oddly enough – were collecting recall signatures. Some activists suspect that these were always Davis secret agents, used as dirty tricksters to taint and allow legal challenges to the recall effort.

No serious legal scholar believes that whether a paid signature gatherer is a felon, or comes from out of state, can invalidate the signatures of valid California voters on such a petition. But Davis is playing for time, trying to move his recall election from this autumn to the Democratic Primary ballot next March. For that purpose, his operatives demanded that all recall signature verification be halted until the felon status of every gatherer can be checked.

What are we to think of a prominent Democratic Governor who believes that felons should be allowed to vote – but apparently not to gather the petition signatures of voters whose signatures and valid registration will be verified by government officials?

Journalists at every opportunity ought to ask today’s presidential aspirants, especially those of “Reverend” Jackson’s party, whether they would sign or veto a bill like the NAACP-supported bill authored by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, that would sweep away state laws and restore to felons throughout America the power of the vote.

The NAACP has been forthright in saying it wants criminals and parolees to be able to vote. Politicians should be asked to say where they stand on this issue with the same honesty.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Home | Blog | Horowitz | Archives | Columnists | Search | Store | Links | CSPC | Contact | Advertise with Us | Privacy Policy

Copyright©2007 FrontPageMagazine.com