Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia restore the right for ex-cons to vote, although many do not inform those ex-cons about simple forms they must fill out so the state adds the ex-cons name back onto voter rolls. One of the states that doesn't perform this service is Florida. A recent report in the Nation magazine sites that several thousand ex-prisoners didn't even know they could have their voting rights restored with this one page form. Worse, Florida regularly purges hundreds of voters from their rolls, mostly the names of convicts or people who have names similar to convicts. However, those urged from these rolls have more than just surnames in common. Many of them also share racial and economic commonalities.
The State of Florida also used intimidation and fear against older minority residents to prevent them from voting in the 2004 Presidential Elections.
The City of New Orleans has created a new kind of electoral disenfranchisement. There are several ballot initiatives in that city which regard the disbursement of Community Block Grants and the efficacy of the so-called Bring New Orleans Back commission, which is engaged in the reconstruction and redesign of areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The problem is, thousands of New Orleans residents displaced by the hurricane will have no chance to vote on this issue. The city has decided against accepting out of state ballots, a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and Constitutional law. The BNOB commission wants to bulldoze the devastated areas, keeping professional, middle class, and economically deprived residents out while creating a smaller and whiter New Orleans.
These are just a few examples among many of how the general electorate are being kept from exercising their right to vote, and its incumbent upon us, the well-read and informed electorate to make sure that voting remains viable for all citizens of this nation. If you'd like to be more involved in efforts to stop the disenfranchisement of voters, please check out the websites of the following organizations:
ACORN (www.acorn.org), which is working vigiliantly to bring displaced residents back to their homes in New Orleans
League of Independent Voters/League of Pissed Off Voters (www.indyvoter.org), which works full time on voter issues
Driving Votes (www.drivingvotes.org), a voter registration organization.
Larry Sakin is a writer and activist, who coordinates The Principles Project (www.principlesproject.org), a group which promotes politically progressive values and candidates and trains grassroots activists throughout the country.