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Voting Rights & Election News Roundup: April 6, 2007 Edition


By Erin Ferns

This an entry in a series of blogs to keep people informed on current election reform and voting rights issues in the news.

Featured Stories of the Week:

Clemency board votes to automatically restore felons' rights – Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Most Florida felons who complete their sentences will have their voting and other civil rights more quickly restored under a rule approved Thursday by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and the state clemency board.

Flawed voter ID ruling – The Journal Gazette

Though two federal appeals court judges upheld Indiana’s Draconian voter ID law, the legal fight continues – and a recent academic paper shows why the court’s ruling should be reviewed.

This week, we focus on two separate but equally important issues affecting voting rights: felon re-enfranchisement and voter ID. Thursday, an Associated Press story published in the St. Petersburg Times reported a movement to re-enfranchise ex-felons and an editorial in Monday's printing of Fort Wayne Newspapers' Journal Gazette examined “Draconian” ID requirements upheld in Indiana with a focus on a recent academic paper discussing why ID requirements have a severe impact on historically marginalized voters.

According to the Sentencing Project, an organization advocating a fair and just criminal justice system, about one million ex-felons have been stripped of their right to vote. The majority of affected former felons are Black. According to a Project Vote report, minority and low-income citizens are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and underrepresented at the polls: “The disenfranchisement rate of African-American men is seven times the national average at 13%.”

Until Thursday, Florida was one of three states, including Kentucky and Virginia, that permanently disenfranchised most former felons. While this is a step forward in re-enfranchising American citizens who had already served their sentences, essentially “paying their dues,” the Florida rule still does not fully or automatically restore civil rights, and leaves out those who have been released prior to the policy change.

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