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Democrat hypocrisy alive in voting rights debate 

LAM LU / THE REBEL YELL

 
The same political party in Nevada that rejected its own secretary of state’s suggestions on preventing voter fraud and abuse has already started lobbying to return the right to vote to convicted fraudsters — and also rapists, murderers, child pornographers, thugs and thieves.

There are some strong arguments to be made in favor of reforming “the laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under state or federal supervision,” as Attorney General Eric Holder puts it.

For many criminals, particularly those who have committed nonviolent felonies and the instance of felonies not related to fraud, it is possible that full franchise can play a role in their rehabilitation.

The Nevada bill, however, does little credit to any of those arguments. The legislation that would return full franchise to felons operates on a level that is hard to describe as anything but preposterous: It returns the right to vote literally overnight to those who have served their sentence in full or who have been paroled. It is a blunt new hatchet where a scalpel is needed — a scalpel that already exists.

Given the relapse rates of men and women who are released from prison, law abiding members of society are right to ask questions about the fitness of convicts to be readmitted to the political decision-making process.

A Department of Justice study found that more than half (51.8 percent) of offenders who were released were rearrested within a 36-month period.

This state’s leading proponent of the change, Senator Tick Segerblom, said in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that returning full franchise is an “important part of the rehabilitation process.”

That statement concedes that rehabilitation isn’t something that happens overnight, that it is a process, and can be measured against standards for progress and judged as sufficient or insufficient.

LAM LU / THE REBEL YELL

LAM LU / THE REBEL YELL

This argument is particularly important, considering the types of felons to whom the legislation would restore full franchise: those guilty of class A or class B felonies. In other words, individuals who have been convicted of murder, sexual assault, child abuse, battery with a deadly weapon and/or creation or possession of child pornography. Nevada law already automatically restores all civil rights to convicts of lesser offenses.

As luck would have it, an avenue already exists by which these folks can apply for restoration of their civil rights . So does a board to decide on claims of rehabilitation. Any rapist who wants his civil rights back can appeal to the State Board of Pardons.

Those types aren’t beating down the door to get into the hearings, though. The R-J reported that the board only hears about 20 cases a year from individuals petitioning to have their civil rights restored.

The type of criminals to which this legislation would apply, though they may have served their sentence, have taken something from somebody that can never be returned.

They have robbed families of their loved ones, children of their innocence and men and women of their security. They have traumatized individuals beyond words and measure. They have, by breaking the law, transgressed against all of us.

The fact that convicts serve time in prison is important, but it does not restore their victims to whole. The people they’ve affected will never be the same, and to say that they have paid their debt is a lie.

The wound a criminal inflicts on others should be reflected in their status before the law.

It is only fair that the offenders should likewise not be considered whole — that they, too, go without for the rest of their lives. They should not enjoy the same privileges as those who have not committed horrendous acts of violence or fraud on their fellows.

Fundamentally though, what does this proposal say about those who advocate for it, while at the same time refusing to implement any procedural safe guards on Nevada’s elections — especially when such common sense proposals come from within their own party?

Secretary of State Ross Miller suggested changes to Nevada’s election law that would have required voters to present government-issued photo identification before casting a vote. Those without photo identification would be allowed to vote after being photographed and signing an affidavit attesting to their identity so no one would be turned away at the polls.

Democrats have traditionally opposed this measure because it might discourage participation from poor and minority voters, even when that possibility doesn’t exist (as in the proposed Nevada law), and even when Republican-run states have launched initiatives to provide photo identification to anyone in the state free of charge, as was proposed in Pennsylvania.

Doesn’t it say something that Democrats — the same people who claim to protect the marginalized — oppose measures to provide marginalized individuals with ID if they want it?

This is particularly troubling because the distribution of free IDs to marginalized communities would make their lives incredibly easier. People would be able to sign leases or buy alcohol and tobacco, enter night clubs or attend Democratic National Committee gatherings where photo identification is necessary to enter.

The Democrats opposes a measure requiring voters to verify their identity before casting a ballot while in an election, while at the same time, requiring all attendees to its 2012 National Convention to furnish IDs in order to enter.

It gets even more ironic: If you want to participate in protests to oppose the Voter ID law in North Carolina, the organizers have asked that you bring a photo ID. That is insane.

That’s not a problem for Senator Segerblom. Virtually no mechanisms are in place to ensure the integrity of the electoral process in Nevada? Fine.

Now, let’s go ahead and let literally the worst criminals in the state head down to the polls.

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