Progressive Democrats introduced a measure on Tuesday to give incarcerated people the right to vote.
The amendment, to major voting rights legislation, failed by a vote of 93-278.
He received no Republican support. A majority of Democrats also voted against.
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“America doesn’t like all of its people,” Representative Cori Bush, a progressive Democrat from Missouri, told the House, saying more than 5 million Americans are barred from participating in an election because they are currently incarcerated.
On Tuesday, Bush and Representative Mondaire Jones, a Democrat from New York, proposed an amendment to the sweeping voting rights legislation, HR 1. The legislation, as drafted, would already restore that right to those who have. felony convictions, but not for those who are. now behind bars – one in six of whom are black.
“This cannot continue,” said Bush. “To deprive our own citizens of their rights is not justice.”
The amendment failed. No Republican supported the amendment, and most Democrats also opposed it, leading to its rejection by 97 votes to 328.
As it stands, only two states, Maine and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia never take away the right to vote, even when a person is incarcerated. But, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states deny their rights to anyone convicted of a crime, even after serving their prison sentence. And while the right to vote is sometimes restored later, there are often additional obstacles.
In Florida, for example, a large majority of voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment restoring the right to vote for convicted felons who were no longer in jail. But the Republican-controlled legislature gutted the measure, forcing those who had crimes on their record – disproportionately black, by an overwhelming Democratic majority – to pay all related fines before they can participate in an election again. According to the New York Times, up to 80% are financially unable to do so.
Although they are denied the right to vote, those who are imprisoned count: the US census considers them residents of the place where they are incarcerated, which means that black and Latino prisoners often help to strengthen representation at the Congress of largely white rural populations.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House committee that oversees the federal election, noted that HR 1 would end the practice. Rather, under the bill, incarcerated persons would be counted as residents of their own hometown. But she said granting them the right to vote appealed to her sense of justice.
“If you are counting the individuals for redistribution purposes, in their prisons, then I think they should be allowed to vote there,” Lofgren commented. “Also, it occurs to me that those who oppose it think that refusing a vote would be a bit of a deterrent against criminal conduct. In fact, empowering people to be citizens of full part encourages rehabilitation. “
In the meantime, the Republicans, in power at the state level, are pushing to reduce access to the vote. In Georgia, the GOP, recently stung by a Democratic sweep of its two Senate seats, is pushing to restrict early voting and limit postal ballots.
And in the United States Supreme Court, Arizona Republicans are defending a rule that rejects the vote of anyone who votes anywhere other than their designated polling station. As a party lawyer said on Tuesday, lifting this restriction “puts us at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis the Democrats.” Politics, after all, “is a zero sum game. “
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