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No Voter Left Behind

Oct 09, 2008
Here comes November 4th! Are we ready for what may be the biggest voter turnout ever1? No, we are not!

The Annenberg Public Policy Center has just released an Election Survey (.pdf) with some startling revelations:

  • Which candidate (Obama or McCain) is more likely to support free trade agreements like NAFTA? Only 28 percent correctly identified McCain.
  • Who is the candidate offering $2,500 to individuals and $5,000 to families to help buy life insurance? Almost twice as many people attributed this McCain plan to Obama, and only one in five correctly identified it as McCain’s.
  • Who wants to close Guantanamo? Forty-three percent said only Obama; only eight percent knew the truth: both McCain and Obama favor the idea.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents don’t know what it takes to override a presidential veto (a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate).
Perhaps what we need isn’t a poll tax so much as a poll test.

Here’s something for those of you responsible for running a proper polling station. The Brennan Center for Justice, together with Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation have assembled a Ballot Accounting Checklist (.pdf) representing “a minimum of what election officials should do to account for all ballots and votes cast on Election Day.” We especially favor the last recommendation: “Make all results public.”

And finally, from the Sentencing Project comes an update on disenfranchisement reform. We used to think convicted felons lost their right to vote forever. Such is far from the case, however. The report, Expanding the Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisment Reform 1997-2008 (.pdf) relates how 760,000 citizens have regained their right to vote, although five million others will continue to be ineligible to vote in November’s election. Furthermore:
  • Thirteen percent of black men are disenfranchised—seven times the national average.
  • 2.1 million disenfranchised persons are ex-offenders who have completed their sentences.
  • The state of Florida had an estimated 960,000 ex-felons who were unable to vote in the 2004 election.
  • Kentucky and Virginia are the only two states that permanently disenfranchise ex-felons.
  • Maine and Vermont are the only two states that allow current inmates to vote.2
Interestingly, another Brennan Center report (produced in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union), De Facto Disenfranchisement (.pdf) “reveals widespread misunderstanding among state election officials of laws governing the right to vote of citizens with felony convictions.” Should we have a close election again this year, look for a massive traffic jam of litigation.

In June 2008, Florida’s governor, Charlie Crist, said, “Once somebody has truly paid their debt to society, we should recognize it. We should welcome them back into society and give them that second chance. Who doesn’t deserve a second chance?”

Who, indeed? Maybe we can even grant that second chance to Florida.
1 Obama Campaign Sets Stage for Record Voter Turnout, by Katie Garrety, ABC News, August 18, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
2 Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States (.pdf), from The Sentencing Project (Accessed October 4, 2008)
tags: Politics

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