Political Prisoners in the United States? Depoliticizing our criminal system


Does the United States actually have political prisoners?

Green states do not disenfranchise. Yellow states only disenfranchise those who are actually in prison. Purple states also disenfranchise felons who are out on parole. Red states disenfranchise prisoners who are on parole or probation. Orange states restrict the rights of some to vote even after they have completed their sentences. (Source: The Sentencing Project)

Green states do not disenfranchise.
Yellow states only disenfranchise those who are actually in prison.
Purple states also disenfranchise felons who are out on parole.
Red states disenfranchise prisoners who are on parole or probation.
Orange states restrict the rights of some to vote even after they have completed their sentences.
(Source: The Sentencing Project)

Probably not by the strict definition of the term: people incarcerated for their political beliefs. But there are millions of American citizens in the criminal justice system who are pawns in our political system. The criminalization of an activity and the pursuit, arrest and incarceration of people engaged in those activities have political ramifications which, in turn, can tempt lawmakers to make decisions which favor their own political viewpoints.

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Common Cause: No Issue of Voter Fraud

“The facts are clear; the research has been done. Election officials, leaders of the president’s own party and other leading election experts confirm that there is no evidence of election tampering, as President Trump alone claims. There simply is no alternate fact,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, grassroots watchdog organization, working to assure government accountability and the right of all Americans to make their voices heard in the political process. [Read more…]

How the GOP Shut Down Voter Registration

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

I begin with something that DCW member Scott wrote on his Facebook page when I posted about Carol Aichele storming our voter registration table a couple weeks ago:

Jessica is a friend of mine who lives in Pennsylvania. She is a strong supporter of Democrats, and works hard to get them elected. But she is also a strong supporter of voting, and has spent many many days over the course of many many years registering people to vote, cheerfully helping people with the process whether they are Republican, Democrat, or independent.

Carol Aichele is the Secretary of the Commonwealth for Pennsylvania. She is a strong supporter of Republicans, and works hard to get them elected. But, as this anecdote shows, she has also become a fierce opponent of voting, and is now spending her time trying to keep people from voting, whether they are Republican, Democrat, or independent.

Voter suppression isn't just Democrat vs. Republican, although it is that. It is also pro-voting vs. anti-voting.

Everything Scott wrote was true, and became even more prescient on Sunday.
For those of you who don't know, I've been registering voters at the same shopping center in Chester County, PA for the past 20 years. For the past several cycles, I have co-chaired the effort with Cheryl Bittner, another local resident as committed to voting as I am. With dozens of volunteers, we have registered, re-registered, handed out absentee ballots, and provided information to several thousand people. 
On Sunday, the Republicans achieved their goal of shutting us down. In our town, there are not a lot of places that get the kind of foot traffic that makes a voter drive possible. There is only one major shopping center, and we were lucky that there was a shopkeeper who allowed us to use a small amount of space. Sadly, after the Republicans sent Carol Aichele (who could find nothing to warrant closing our table) they banded together to file false complaints to the shopkeeper (and surrounding businesses) about us. We don't blame the businesses, it is not their job to evaluate the veracity of what was said to them. They had no choice but to ask us to leave.
Here in Pennsylvania, many of us are doing everything we can to not just make sure people are registered but to insure that they have the IDs they need to overcome the high bar set by the state to vote this year. The state has gone so far as to inactivate thousands of voters for no discernible reason, in addition to requiring IDs that are very difficult for hundreds of thousands of people to acquire in the time allotted.

We provided a great service, and we gladly registered and provided information to people regardless of political orientation. Cheryl and I feel appalled, saddened, mortified (and a host of other words) that our country has come to this: out of desperation, bigotry and a sense that they're losing, the Republicans will stop at nothing to deny suffrage. They so hate us, that they will do anything to prevent a bunch of mostly middle aged locals from helping people vote. 

PA Voting: What a Week in Pennsylvania

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

Yesterday, the NCAA and the Big Ten came down on Penn State in ways that show sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, there is justice in this world. It's possible that form of heavenly lightening might strike twice here in the Keystone State.

As you are likely aware, the Corbett administration in concert with the most racist and backwards elements of the PA General Assembly and state Senate passed legislation in March of this year making it close to impossible for almost 10% of all registered voters to vote this November. Yes, really: 9.2%. Source.

You make think there's a lot of fraud going on in Pennsylvania. Well, no. The state stipulated that there is no voter fraud:

This was stipulated as part of a court case brought against the state on behalf of legitimate voters who will be denied suffrage, and which we posted on when the suit was filed back in May.

There's no doubt that the law was enacted solely to disenfranchise minorities who would more likely vote for Obama than Romney. Really. The guy in the clip is Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai. 

More proof that the disenfranchisement is targeted here

And now the Feds are involved under the 1965 Voting Rights Law. Not Section 5, which relates to those states that had discriminated in the past, but Section 2, which states:

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act. Most of the cases arising under Section 2 since its enactment involved challenges to at-large election schemes, but the section's prohibition against discrimination in voting applies nationwide to any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Section 2 is permanent and has no expiration date as do certain other provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Thanks Eric Holder! 

In a letter sent to Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele on Monday, DOJ requested state data on registered voters as well as the state’s list of individuals with driver’s licenses and ID cards. Additionally, DOJ requested information on the state’s efforts to educate voters about the new law as well as documents and records supporting a March 14 statement from Gov. Tom Corbett (R) which claimed “99 percent of Pennsylvania’s already have acceptable photo IDs.”

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez requested Pennsylvania send the information to federal authorities within 30 days.

The case is in court tomorrow, and if it somehow gets past the judges, even with an appeal in place, the Feds are on it. 

For those of you in Pennsylvania interested in making sure voters are registered, and that people without IDs get them if things stall before the election, click here to get involved. If you live in Chester County and want to work on local registration, Cheryl and I are launching Friday night and continuing on through the last possible day. Drop me a note if you're willing to give us 2 hours. 

Voter Suppression Efforts

         Laws have been passed in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states with Republican controlled legislatures and governors that try to limit voting rights for minorities, seniors, and college students, piously raising the specter of “voter fraud”. I look forward to court challenges to these bills, challenging their constitutionality, but with the Supreme  Court the way it is, and memories of Citizens United, It’s cause to worry. I have other memories, of  how African-American voters in Florida in 2000 were either purged from the rolls, or intimidated by police from going to the polls, and then we had the eight lost years of George DUH Bush.