Seeds: After the Civil War, tensions in America were incredibly high, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line. Discrimination against African Americans was a pervasive issue, and can be seen in legislation that is still active today. Most states passed felony-disenfranchisement laws which essentially kept convicted felons from voting, and given that the jails were majority black, many believe the laws were aimed at keeping African Americans from voting. Before today, all but two states had laws that prohibited felons or ex-felons from voting (the various levels of criminality that are categorized as felonies are quite broad, including everything from murder, to dealing marijuana, to tax evasion)
Core: Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia just used his executive power in order to circumvent the Republican-run legislature to sign a bill into office that gives more than 200,000 citizens back the right to vote. The bill allows felons who are no longer in prison and have completed their parole or probation period to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, and serve as notaries public.
Skin: An estimated 2.5 % of Americans cannot vote, which amounts to about 1 in every 40 people. This statistic angers many, but the idea of felony disenfranchisement to some isn’t just about giving people rights. For example, Virginia’s Speaker of the House stated that the order is just McAuliffe’s (who’s a Democrat) attempt at securing the presidency for Hillary Clinton, since statistics show that felons are much more likely to register as Democrats rather than Republicans.
Leaves: Allowing some groups to vote while making it more difficult for others to has recently become a contentious issue, especially since it’s an election year. While Democrats have tried to put into place legislation that would make it easier for groups that are generally known to vote Democratic (i.e. ex felons and people with low incomes), Republicans have attempted to make it more difficult for such groups to vote.
Food For Thought: What do you think of felony disenfranchisement? Do you think that McAuliffe has ulterior political motives?