Earlier this week the House of Representatives began discussing comprehensive legislation known as the For the People Act or HR 1Protect and expand electoral access in the face of a coordinated GOP-led onslaught against the right to vote at the state level.
Given that the GOP and his alleged standard bearer Whoever enters the next election cycle has chosen the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy lock, the stocks and the smoking barrel, and has made the expanded suppression of voters a central part of their strategy and party platform. It is vital that Congress passes voter protections as soon as possible. Without it, millions of Americans in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania who voted in 2020 will find that there are major obstacles between them and the ballot box between 2022 and 2024.
In this national conversation on voting rights, we also need to have a discussion on the criminal justice system, as a multitude of state laws passed during the mass incarceration era have denied millions of current and former offenders the right to vote. The Condemnation project It is estimated that, despite some re-franchise victories in Florida and elsewhere in recent years, more than 5 million people remain voiceless due to their entanglement in the criminal justice system.
During the discussion in Congress about HR 1, the members briefly considered an amendment in order to quickly put it aside extended the right to vote to prisoners behind bars. Despite the fact that prisoners in Canada had twice upheld their right to vote by the Supreme Court of Canada, and despite the fact that mass incarceration in the United States disproportionately affects minorities and low-income populations, this amendment was pushed forward by the newly elected Missouri representative, Cori Bush, was apparently a bridge too far for many democrats.
While federal lawmakers appeared unwilling to address the issue of mass disenfranchisement due to mass incarceration, state lawmakers and voters, especially in the West, are not so shy.
Washington State home last month approved a bill re-voting for probation officers and probation officers. The measure would automatically restore the voting rights of around 20,000 residents. Unfortunately, a competing bill, which was launched in the Senate that same week, died unexpectedly on the ground after the GOP opposed it and managed to pull Democratic support away. The Senate now has about a month to pass the house version. If this is not the case, this calculation will also go up in flames. Given the general increasing momentum in criminal justice reforms in Washington State over the past few years – including moves to decriminalize marijuana possession and reduce the maximum offense conviction sentence to less than one year for immigrants convicted of offense to protect against deportation – this would be a travesty if this legislation fails.
This should be a no-brainer. After all, the West Coast has come a long way from its criminal stance of the 1990s and early 2000s. Oregon has passed laws that allow people to vote after leaving prison. Legislators in this state are too Promote a bill that disenfranchises prisoners– which now only Maine, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., allow. These other states have never disenfranchised prisoners in the first place. So when Oregon law passes – which criminal justice reformers believe is likely – it will be the first state in US history to be fully convinced of it Re-Prisoners deprived of their rights and thus the right to vote separated from criminal sanctions.
In California, where voters in recent election cycles have shown themselves remarkably sympathetic to handling the politics and collateral damage of the tough decades of crime, voters last November passed an initiative to restore the right to vote for probation officers. They also selected a number of progressive prosecutors who had set themselves the goal of rethinking law enforcement strategies and investigating police violence.
And in NevadaGovernor Steve Sisolak, who until recently had one of the most restrictive laws in the country preventing ex-offenders from voting, signed a law in 2019 that allows voting on around 77,000 ex-prisoners as well as criminals convicted of a crime, however not sentenced to prison was restored.
This is the moment in the West for systemic criminal justice reform. Juvenile justice is being redefined, drug policies are being redesigned to emphasize public health and harm reduction, and the three-strike laws are being used less as a law enforcement tool. Voting rights are a central part of this conversation. The legislature must not ignore them or change them at short notice.