Tuesday, April 13, 2010

where there's smoke, there's new jim crow...,

WaPo | AS A CANDIDATE last fall, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell earned praise and reinforced his carefully nurtured image as a moderate by pledging to streamline the cumbersome process by which nonviolent former felons may regain their voting rights after completing their sentences. He insisted then, as he did as a lawmaker a decade ago, that ex-offenders who want their voting rights restored should not have to wait six months to a year for their applications to be reviewed, especially since they are not eligible to apply until three years after fulfilling their sentence.

We take the governor at his word. But his initial attempts to expedite the process have come with a fat asterisk that casts doubt on any claim to fairness and decency, let alone moderation: Mr. McDonnell is also requiring ex-offenders -- who have already paid their debt to society -- to pass what looks like a character test before they can cast a vote.

In 48 other states and the District of Columbia, voting rights for most felons are restored automatically once their sentence is fulfilled. Only Virginia and Kentucky insist that some sanctions last indefinitely -- until the state, in its infinite wisdom, grants what the U.S. Constitution regards as the inalienable right to vote. In the Old Dominion, the result is that huge numbers of people are disenfranchised. Although the powers that be in Richmond regard former felons with such contempt that they don't even bother counting them, voting rights advocates estimate that some 300,000 ex-cons in Virginia remain barred from voting. African Americans account for just a fifth of Virginia's 7.8 million citizens but are thought to constitute about half of those ineligible to vote. This is Jim Crow by another name.

Video Michelle Alexander The New Jim Crow