Thank you Columbia Watch for um, watching the Columbian, and pointing me towards yesterday’s excellent editorial on “Illegal Voters.” It turns out that 31 convicted felons illegally voted in Clark County.
That might sound shocking, but it’s only 0.0001799 percent of the 172,277 votes cast in this county, or one illegal felon in every 5,556 voters overall. If those 31 illegal ballots were voted in the same proportion as the whole of Clark County […] 16 of them favored Republican Dino Rossi and 14 went for Democrat Christine Gregoire.
Okay, so their math sucks (they need to slide that decimal point over a couple notches,) but the rest of the piece is still on target. The editors point out that with all the talk about better procedures to purge felons from the rolls, there is a simpler and more societally beneficial solution.
What this state really should do is what 36 others have done: Allow felons the automatic right to vote after serving their time. But, unfortunately, one or more members of the state House Rules Committee didn’t cotton to a bill that would have done just that, so it died quietly without a floor vote earlier this month.
As Kimsey said, allowing felons who have served their time the automatic right to vote would make things administratively easier, obviating the need for much of the paperwork that’s now required to keep them from voting.
But more important, Kimsey’s right when he says, “If part of the rehabilitation process is getting people reconnected with society, and someone is released from incarceration and wants to take the time and effort to register and cast a ballot, is there a more positive engagement than that?”
Before we devote any more time, money or resources towards preventing felons from voting, we need to sit back and ask ourselves: “what exactly is the problem that we’re trying solve?” Clearly we should do whatever is reasonable to prevent people from voting illegally… but does society actually gain anything from making it illegal for felons to vote?
No less than the American Correctional Association has called for ending the practice of withholding voting rights from parolees and those who have finished serving their terms. Studies show that these laws serve no correctional purpose, and may contribute to recidivism.
Unfortunately, the continuing partisan rancor over November’s extraordinarily close gubernatorial election makes it impossible for legislators to address this issue during the current session. Perhaps next year we can have a reasoned debate over a policy that disenfranchises 25 percent of WA’s black males, dangerously disengaging a large segment of our population from the civic mainstream.