Attorney General Eric Holder’s call to restore voting rights to felons after they’ve served their time in prison has split Senate Democrats. Liberal Democrats who are not facing tough re-elections this year say it’s the right thing to do, but vulnerable incumbents are steering clear of the proposal. Holder has become increasingly outspoken recently. This week he declared that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws that are discriminatory. Political experts say barring ex-felons from voting impacts African Americans disproportionately. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who faces a competitive challenge from former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, is torn over the idea. Warner supports restoring voting rights to non-violent ex-felons but he’s not sure it’s a good idea to automatically enfranchise former violent felons.
Many federal lawmakers are echoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s call to restore voting rights to felons in Virginia. In a couple states felons can vote while in prison. In many right after they leave the gates their voting rights are restored. Not in Virginia. The commonwealth is one of just a handful of states that doesn’t restore voting rights upon being released from prison or completing probation or parole, which Attorney General Holder says is unjust. “I call upon state leaders and other elected officials across this country to pass clear and consistent reforms to restore the voting rights of all who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation and paid their fines.” Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine remembers fighting to change Virginia’s law while in Richmond. “As governor, I, Mark Warner first and then me and then Bob McDonnell, we really tried to dramatically escalate the re-enfranchisement of folks, because I think we’ve all come to the realization that the sort of automatic disenfranchisement for a felony…is a bad rule.”
They were five simple words in a 2,000-word speech–”We have to fix that.” But for millions of voting rights supporters across the country, they were a sign that President Obama recognized one of the major struggles of the modern civil rights movement, as activists and some Democrats push back against an onslaught of voter suppression tactics that dampen turnout among Democratic constituencies. Another sign of the president’s support for voting reforms came on Inauguration Day, when he said, “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” The third, and perhaps most vociferous call, may be only a week away, according a New York Times report that says the president will call for voting reforms in next Tuesday’s State of the Union address. The same report included an MIT analysis of voting wait times in 2012 that is likely to bolster his push for voter equality. Democrats and Independents, on average, waited about 20% longer than Republicans. Black and Hispanic voters waited nearly twice as long as white voters. Urban voters waited more than twice as long as rural voters. The poor waited longer than the rich.
National: Internet Voting Not the Solution to Long Lines, Machine Breakdowns on Election Day | eNews Park Forest
The long lines, machine breakdowns and disputes over voter identification that marred the 2012 election will not be solved by moves to permit voting on the Internet, through email or by fax, Common Cause warned today. Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s National Voting Integrity Campaign, told a congressional forum that online voting remains too unreliable and too vulnerable to hacker attacks to be implemented. “We are talking about our right to vote – a right we cannot sacrifice for what may be a great new idea, but one that is untested and not ready for prime time,” Goodman asserted. She added that “while many ideas will be fielded to alleviate the problems we saw last Election Day, some measures are just not ready for adoption.”
Efforts to improve election administration and address the long lines that greeted voters on Election Day shifted to Capitol Hill on Thursday as House and Senate lawmakers unveiled related bills. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced legislation that would establish a competitive-grant program within the Justice Department to provide states with incentives to improve their voting processes. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., quickly pledged to co-sponsor the bill, citing the “embarrassment” that long lines caused Virginia last week. “In Prince William County, folks waited for up to three hours. In Chesapeake, Va., folks waited up to four hours. It was remarkable that it was five days after the fact before we even knew the results in Florida,” Warner said on the Senate floor.