A package of election proposals in the state House would allow felons to keep their voting rights while in prison and aim to make voter registration for the general public more convenient, or even automatic. And one bill has the potential to change how New Mexico participates in presidential elections. The proposals, all sponsored by Democrats, are starting to move through the House. The presidential proposal cleared its first committee Wednesday on a party-line vote, with Democrats in the majority. It would sign New Mexico on to a compact pledging the state’s electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. The goal would be to diminish the influence of the winner-take-all system that dominates the Electoral College, in which candidates tend to focus on a dozen or so battleground states that could be won by either party.
The Supreme Court says a blanket ban on prisoners voting was lawful. The court has today dismissed an appeal brought by jailhouse lawyer Arthur William Taylor asking them to declare a decision to ban all prisoners from voting was invalid. Taylor and the other appellants, represented by lawyer Richard Francois, have battled through the High Court, Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court for a declaration that Parliament was wrong to impose a blanket ban on prisoners voting. But while the High Court agreed the ban was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, it did not declare the ban invalid. That decision has now been backed by New Zealand’s highest court. Taylor argued the ban, brought about in the Amendment Act 2010, was invalid because a supermajority of 75 per cent of all the members of the House of Representatives was required to pass the amendment, which did not happen.
On the 125th anniversary of women exercising suffrage for the first time in NZ, the support party has called for a change in the law that sees incarcerated people ‘unjustifiably denied the right to vote’. The Green Party has added its voice to a growing call for a change in the law that denies people in prison the chance to vote, using parliamentary question time to urge Justice Minister Andrew Little to revisit an issue he has described as “not a priority”. The party’s move follows a landmark decision in the Supreme Court earlier this month and the launch of a campaign today by JustSpeak.
A prison reform group wants to have a public debate on prisoners’ right to vote, after the Supreme Court ruled it is a right of all New Zealanders. The court earlier this week upheld a High Court decision which found that a law restricting a prisoner’s right to vote was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. The government said the issue was not a priority, but Howard League for Penal Reform spokesperson Christine McCarthy said the court’s decision should put the issue on the agenda. “What is so dangerous about prisoners voting? The only reason people are put in prison is – supposedly – about safety to the community.
Inmates within America’s overflowing prisons are marking the end of a 19-day national prison strike on Sunday with a new push to regain the vote for up to 6 million Americans who have been stripped of their democratic rights. The strike was formally brought to a close on the anniversary of the 1971 uprising at Attica prison in upstate New York. Though details of the protest have been sketchy since it was launched on 21 August, hunger strikes, boycotts of facilities and refusal to carry out work duties have been reported in many states, from Florida and South Carolina to Washington. Now that the strike has ended, organisers hope its momentum can be sustained as they attempt to fulfill their demands including the restoration of the vote. Not only does the US have the world’s largest incarcerated population – 2.3 million are behind bars – it also harbors at state level some of the harshest felony disenfranchisement laws in the world.
Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to allow all Scottish prison inmates to vote in the country’s elections by a majority of MSPs on Holyrood’s equalities committee. The committee said allowing prisoners to vote went to the heart of questions about a citizen’s responsibilities and the purpose of prison to rehabilitate offenders. Its conclusions, which were resisted by two Conservative MSPs but backed by its Scottish National party, Labour and Liberal Democrat members, will be seen a challenge to the first minister’s emphasis on her party’s progressive ideals.
As the midterm elections draw closer, Dameon Stackhouse is eager to cast a ballot, but he can’t under New Jersey law because he remains on parole after more than a decade behind bars for second-degree robbery. “We have no say,” said Mr. Stackhouse, a 41-year-old construction worker and student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “This is one of the worst things you can do to a citizen.” New Jersey is weighing a measure that would immediately restore voting rights to Mr. Stackhouse and more than 94,000 other state residents with convictions. If passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled Senate and General Assembly, it would be the third U.S. state, along with Maine and Vermont, to allow people to vote even while incarcerated.
Illinois lawmakers are working to give people behind bars while awaiting trial a better opportunity to vote. The bill would require election officials to collaborate with county jails to provide voter registration forms to eligible voters who are in jail while awaiting trial. Those serving time after being convicted are not able to vote while in custody. State Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Springfield, said many people in jail while awaiting trial don’t know they can vote.
The career criminal, Arthur Taylor, has taken his legal battle challenging a ban on prisoner voting to this country’s highest court. The High Court and Court of Appeal have already ruled against them, but in December the Supreme Court agreed to give them one last hearing. In 2010, Parliament passed a law preventing all sentenced prisoners from voting, regardless of the length of their sentence. However, earlier electoral legislation allowed prisoners serving a jail term of less than three years to vote.
The Solicitor-General has told the Supreme Court justices they risk undermining New Zealand’s democracy, if they rule on whether prisoners should be able to vote. Notorious “jailhouse lawyer” Arthur William Taylor has fought through the High Court, Court of Appeal, and now the Supreme Court, against the 2010 law which banned all prisoners from voting in elections. Previously prisoners could vote if they were serving a term of less than three years. The High Court did not overturn the ban, but did declare it was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act because it infringed on the rights of New Zealand citizens to vote. The Court of Appeal upheld that decision. Solicitor-General Una Jagose is presenting the Crown’s case to the Supreme Court this morning. She said prisoner voting rights were not an issue that should be decided by the courts.
National: Most states disenfranchise felons. Maine and Vermont allow inmates to vote from prison. | NBC
Joseph Jackson was one of the millions of Americans inspired by Barack Obama’s 2008 White House bid. A black man in the nation’s whitest state, he coordinated voter registration drives and cast his first-ever ballot for the candidate who would become the nation’s first African-American president. And he did it all while incarcerated in a maximum-security prison, serving 19 years for manslaughter. That’s because Jackson, 52, was convicted in Maine, one of just two states that allow felons to vote from behind bars. In the U.S., nearly all convicted felons are disenfranchised during their prison sentences and, often, barred from the ballot for years after release. Sometimes, offenders lose the right to vote for life.
New Jersey lawmakers are proposing a bill that would make the state the third in the country to allow prisoners the right to vote. The bill would let people who are incarcerated, on parole and under probation supervision vote, a change supporters say is critical to addressing racial disparities in New Jersey’s criminal justice system. Under current law, New Jersey residents can’t vote if they are incarcerated or on parole or probation. About 94,000 people currently fall into these categories, according to state officials. Shavonda Sumter, a state assemblywoman from Paterson, N.J., said black residents make up a disproportionate share of the state’s prison population—and stripping them of their voting rights violates constitutional protections that that say people can’t be prevented from voting based on their race.
In the 1870s, the woman’s suffrage movement claimed the right to vote by citing the new 14th Amendment’s promise that no state “shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Their opponents didn’t see it that way. “Citizenship no more carries the right to vote than it carries the power to fly to the moon,” The Rochester Union and Advertiser scoffed in an 1872 editorial. But suffragists insisted. The right to vote, they argued, cannot be carved away from citizenship. “Is the right to vote one of the privileges or immunities of citizens?” Susan B. Anthony asked in an 1873 speech. Her answer: “It is not only one of them, but the one without which all the others are nothing.”
State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) on Thursday said he plans to introduce legislation next year that would allow convicted felons, those on probation, people on parole and incarcerated individuals to vote in elections, a bill that would dramatically alter current New Jersey law that prohibits those with criminal convictions from voting. “I will be calling on Governor-elect Phil Murphy and my colleagues to join me,” Rice said. “I ask for their support of our bill to sever the anti-democratic link between the right to vote and the criminal justice system.” A recent report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice found that New Jersey currently prohibits 94,000 individuals from voting due to criminal history or incarceration. The report found that a disproportionate amount of those disenfranchized by the voting law are African American. In New Jersey, about 15 percent of the total population is black but about 50 percent of those currently incarcerated in the state are black.
A small number of prisoners – probably around 100 – will be given the right to vote after a British compromise offer to marginally extend the franchise was accepted on Thursday by the Council of Europe. The deal, crafted by the justice secretary, David Lidington, brings to an end an embittered 12-year standoff between Strasbourg and London over the enforcement of judgments by the European court of human rights. The compromise should remove one of the main sources of resentment felt by Conservative rightwingers over the Strasbourg court’s role. Prisoners on temporary release and at home under curfew will gain the right to vote. The dispute erupted in 2005 when the ECHR ruled on a challenge over prisoner voting rights brought by John Hirst, who was serving life for manslaughter. The court declared that the blanket ban on prisoners participating in elections violated human rights and was illegal. Despite similar judgments in subsequent cases, the UK refused to enforce the ruling.
A lawyer for prisoners seeking the vote has called leaked government plans to enfranchise some inmates a “cynical” attempt to do the minimum required. Sean Humber, a partner at Leigh Day, said the reported proposals were likely to affect just a few hundred people.
According to the Sunday Times, prisoners sentenced to less than a year and with the right to day release could be allowed to return home to vote. The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on “speculation”. Currently, prisoners are not eligible to be included in the register of electors, except for unconvicted prisoners on remand – those in custody pending trial – and those who were sent to prison for contempt of court or for not paying a fine.
Editorials: The great revolution in UK prisoner voting will affect … a few dozen people | Rob Allen/The Guardian
n 2005 the European court of human rights ruled that the UK’s blanket ban on voting by convicted prisoners was a violation of the right to free elections. Fearful of media and parliamentary uproar, successive Labour, coalition and Conservative governments have refused to make even a partial relaxation to the ban – until now. A leaked paper suggests that some short-term prisoners may finally be permitted to vote in elections, albeit in very limited circumstances. It’s not exactly clear which prisoners will get the vote. It could be those serving sentences of less than 12 months who happen to be outside prison on day release on the date an election happens to fall. Or a more proactive scheme could be introduced for short-term prisoners who are eligible for what’s called “release on temporary licence” either to go out to a polling station or cast a vote in jail. Whichever proposal emerges from the Whitehall consultation, it’s a tiny number who will be enfranchised. The leaked paper talks of hundreds (out of 86,000 prisoners), but it could be tens. Day release is almost never used for the 6,000-odd short-term prisoners as things stand.
New Zealand: ‘Jailhouse lawyer’ Arthur Taylor loses appeal to allow prisoners to vote | New Zealand Herald
One of New Zealand’s longest-serving prisoners has lost an appeal to allow inmates to vote behind bars. Arthur William Taylor, who has spent about 40 years of his life in prison, and prisoners Hinemanu Ngaronoa and Sandra Wilde – brought their cases to the Court of Appeal, arguing it was discriminatory to ban prisoners from voting. The case was originally taken in 2013 by Taylor – a self-described “jailhouse lawyer”. He also sought and won a “declaration of inconsistency” in the High Court, saying a broad-sweeping ban on prisoners’ voting was an unjustified limitation on the right to vote. That decision was upheld on appeal this year, but does not mean Parliament must repeal the ban.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would give some Hawaii felons and prisoners the right to vote. Supporters say the loss of voting rights disproportionately affects minorities, who often experience higher rates of incarceration. They say losing the right to vote undermines the democratic process. “It makes a lot of sense when you think why people commit crimes in the first place,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing, who introduced the bill. “They feel like they’re not a part of the system.”
Opponents say people who commit serious crimes may not be trustworthy, and losing the right to vote is an added punishment.
An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to clarify the state law regarding a convict’s voting rights. Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa filed House Bill 2277 for the upcoming legislative session. The proposed bill states that anyone convicted of a felony could register to vote after having “fully served” his or her sentence, “including any term of incarceration, parole or supervision,” or after completing a probationary period imposed by a judge.
Maryland state lawmakers have taken up legislation to allow felons to vote once they were released from prison. Currently, felons must wait for their parole or probation to run out. Jane Henderson, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform and executive director of Communities United, was surprised to learn that the legislation was getting action. She had assumed it would have been difficult to get the legislature to address the matter, let alone pass legislation. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it in May, but she is optimistic that the legislature will override him, and soon. “By state constitution, they have to take it up soon when the next session starts in January,” Henderson told the Washington Examiner. “In the Senate, we’re fine. The House voted 82 for it and we need 85 … We’re very close.” If Maryland does approve the bill, the state would be the latest in an accelerating trend. Since 2009, six states have rolled back laws limiting felon voting rights.
In a drive that could have sweeping electoral implications, advocates for Florida’s roughly two million convicted felons are working to place an amendment on the 2016 ballot that would reverse the state’s policy against the automatic restoration of felon voting rights. The policy, which was briefly lifted during the administration of former Gov. Charlie Crist, was reinstated in 2011 with a vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet. It requires felons to wait at least five years after the completion of their sentences before they’re allowed to apply for a hearing on reinstatement of their voting rights.
The ruling is a victory for career criminal Arthur Taylor, who has been fighting to give prisoners the right to vote since a 2010 law took it away from all inmates, no matter how long their sentence. At the time the legislation was being considered, the Attorney-General warned Parliament that a blanket ban contravened the Bill of Rights, but the law was passed anyway. Now Justice Heath has made a formal declaration that the law is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and is unjustified. Under New Zealand law, Parliament can pass legislation that is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights if there are justifiable grounds for doing so. However, Justice Heath found that the law was full of inconsistencies and would lead to arbitrary outcomes.
Advocates for restoring felons’ voting rights faster are hoping to try again next year. Minnesota law bans felons from voting until they’ve completed parole or probation. Advocates made headway this year in their long push to restore that right immediately after felons are released from prison. They say it’s an essential right that would ease the transition back to society for an estimated 47,000 people.
Minnesota: Senate passes elections bill, would allow early voting, restore felon voting rights | StarTribune
The Senate passed a wide-ranging elections bill 39-28 on a mostly party line vote that would expand early voting and restore voting rights to felons once they are no longer incarcerated. The bill would automatically register eligible voters when they apply for a driver’s license or state identification card or have it renewed. It would also allow 16- and 17-year olds to “preregister” to vote. A driver’s license applicant could opt-out of registering to vote.
Minnesota: How a bill does not become law: behind the mysterious death of a bipartisan measure to restore felon voting rights | MinnPost
If political insiders ever want to know why so much of the public cares so little for the machinations of our current system, you could do worse than point to the tortured path of the “restore the vote” bill currently before the Minnesota Legislature. On one side of the issue, you have Rep. Tony Cornish, a lawman and gun rights advocate who represents Vernon Center in the Minnesota House and co-author of the bill, which would restore voting rights to felons who have completed their time behind bars but are still on probationary status. On the other side of the issue? Also Rep. Tony Cornish — the one who’s the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee and who refuses to let his committee hear the bill he helped write. Ah, politics.
Amid a national movement to make it easier for ex-felons to vote, Maryland could be next to take a step forward on the issue. A bill that would allow most ex-felons to vote after being released from prison passed both houses Thursday and went to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican. Currently, ex-felons must complete parole and probation before getting their voting rights back. “The governor is still reviewing that legislation and hasn’t taken a position yet,” Erin Montgomery, a Hogan spokeswoman, told msnbc. She said the governor is expected to make a decision in the next few days. If signed into law, the bill would restore voting rights for an estimated 40,000 people.
Despite a broad coalition of backers and newfound bipartisan support, a measure to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they are released from behind bars once again appears doomed over reluctance from anonymous House lawmakers. The “Restore the Vote” movement appeared to receive new life in the 2015 legislative session, after some Republican lawmakers, along with conservative and libertarian-leaning groups, joined the 13-year-old push for reform. The 47,000 Minnesotans now under post-release supervision are not allowed to vote until they’re “off paper” — a process that can take years. If passed, the measure would put Minnesota in line with 18 other states that grant voting rights to felons on probation or parole.
A Senate committee Thursday passed a bill that would restore voting rights to former felony offenders in Minnesota as soon as they’re released from incarceration. Currently an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans who’ve been released from jails or prisons aren’t allowed to vote because they’re on probation. Some went straight to probation and lost their voting privileges for long periods of time. “How can you explain to people that they pay their taxes and they can’t vote?” asked Demetria, one of many who lined up outside the hearing room at the State Capitol.
Minnesota: Renewed push to restore felon voting rights clears first hurdle | Minneapolis Star Tribune
A measure to restore voting rights to felons who have been released from incarceration successfully cleared its first committee hurdle Thursday backed by a broad coalition of support. Dozens packed the hearing room in support of the bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, that would change state law to allow conflicted felons to vote immediately after they’re released from prison or the workhouse, rather than when they’ve completed the terms of their probation or parole—a process that can take years, if not decades. Although an effort years in the making–this year’s push has seen new support from conservative and libertarian causes, bolstering GOP support. Walter Hudson, vice chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, said that prison inmates should be denied the right to vote, just as they should be denied a multitude of other rights, but that shouldn’t apply once they are released back into the community, he said. “Participation in the political process conveys a sense of belonging and investment in the community which those seeking reconciliation ought to have,” he said.