From the San Francisco Chronicle by Bob Egelko

A federal appeals court overturned Washington state's ban on voting by convicted felons Tuesday in a ruling that could extend ballots to prisoners in other states where studies showed racial bias in the criminal justice system.

That includes Alaska which is in the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals and we have a whole lot of racial bias in our criminal justice system too. We also have economic class injustice and injustice based on gender. Washington state racial bias has nothing on Alaska’s racial bias, especially in the judicial system.

In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the Washington law violates the federal Voting Rights Act because evidence showed discrimination against minorities at every level of the state's legal system: arrest, bail, prosecution and sentencing.

If the ruling survives, it will be binding in the circuit's other eight states, including California, which denies voting rights to 283,000 convicted felons in prison or on parole, according to a report from the nonprofit Sentencing Project.

Does that mean a lot of those who are incarcerated are political prisoners? Hell yes it does. Huge numbers of inmates in the prison-industrial complex are there for political and financial gains of the elites in this country. Many should have never been arrested to begin with. Taking low level offenders out of programs which would have benefited them and society by assisting them to grow forward instead of backwards and putting them in a system which destroys them at a high cost to the tax payers proves crime was not the ulterior motive for our huge prison population. Here in Alaska from 2000 to 2006 the number of women incarcerated increased 82% per the UAA Justice Center's research. Do you really think crime committed by women increased that much? They wanted to fill up the prisons so the private companies could come in and build new ones and sell supplies to the prison system. Then there is the influence of the religious right who loves to have a captive audience to proselytize to and in the prison system in Alaska, they do.

About 114,000 are African Americans, who are disenfranchised at seven times the rate of the general population, the report said.

Among those in Washington state who commit crimes, "minorities are more likely than whites to be searched, arrested, detained and ultimately prosecuted," Judge A. Wallace Tashima said in the appeals court's majority opinion.

For example, he said, studies showed that African Americans in Washington were more than nine times as likely to be in prison as whites and 70 percent more likely to be searched, even though a study of one police department found that officers were more likely to find contraband when searching whites.

Findings were similar for Latinos and Native Americans, none of which could be explained by differences in crime rates, Tashima said. The Voting Rights Act "demands that such racial discrimination not spread to the ballot box," he said.

One of the main reasons laws were never passed to restore voting rights to inmates was they could then manipulate the number of minorities incarcerated so they could block a lot of Democratic Party votes. Does that mean a lot of those who are incarcerated are political prisoners? Hell yes it does. The huge numbers of inmates in the prison-industrial complex are for political and financial gains of the elites in this country. Taking offenders out of programs which would have benefited them and society by assisting them to grow forward instead of backwards and putting them in a system which destroys them (and their families) at a high cost to the tax payers proves crime was not the ulterior motive for our huge prison population.

Dissenting Judge Margaret McKeown said the court should have told a trial judge to reconsider the Washington law based on an amendment last year that made it easier for paroled felons to vote.

The point of having judges who discriminate against minorities fix their own discriminatory practices would be…?

She also said the court was relying too much on statistics and should consider other factors, such as minority access to the political process, before finding racial discrimination.

She thinks minority access to the political process is not a type of racial discrimination. Well, that’s interesting. But I still have to say I appreciate Judge McKeown who during the AT&T/NSA hearing in response to being told by the Bush administration that use of a particular document was so top secret it was non-redactable and could not even be meaningfuly described, Judge McKeown said, "I feel like I’m in Alice and Wonderland."

“The court was relying too much on statistics“? There they go flaunting science again, those bastards actually thought they could get research past Judge McKeown? Look Judge Margaret it is well established by many years of research that discrimination goes on at many levels in the judicial and prison systems, so don’t bother. Not included in this article is her statement that the majority "has charted territory that none of our sister circuits has dared to explore." It is rare when courts value the constitution and rule accordingly and our courts have in large part been used to keep the ruling class in power. Do I have to guess what your party affiliation is Judge Margaret? No, you hegemonic tool.

The ruling is the first by an appeals court to overturn a state's prohibition on voting by felons, which exists in different versions in every state except Maine and Vermont.

Imprisoned felons of all races would become eligible to vote if the courts concluded, based on studies like those in Washington, that a state's justice system was racially skewed.

The system is not just racially skewed, it is class skewed and many have argued that economic class has more to do with the prisons being filled up than race. Those who have the finances to hire a good attorney fare much better than those who have no choice but to rely on the government appointed attorneys who are just going to steer them down the plea deal path even if they are innocent. Why do you think indigent defendants are given attorneys who have no skill or just push paper? Before I understood how this corrupt system works I thought one of the public defenders I had here in Alaska was sleeping with the prosecutor because she practically had her head stuck up his butt all the time and she constantly praised him, especially when he was spinning lies about me. Most of the state money is poured into arresting and prosecuting, that makes innocence and due process irrelevant.

The studies "concluded what a lot of people feel, that a disproportionate amount of minorities are convicted of crimes even though there might be the same amount of crimes committed by the white population," said attorney Lawrence Weiser, who directs the legal clinic at Gonzaga Law School. He has worked on the Washington case since a group of minority prisoners filed suit over the law in 1996.

A state appeals court in San Francisco upheld California's voting law last year. Three other federal appeals courts have ruled that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to bans on voting by felons.

"Part of being a good citizen is obeying the laws and not doing things to other citizens that are so egregious that you end up in prison,"(Do you mean agregious acts that are allowed if the accused has money for an attorney?) said Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, who promised an appeal of the ruling. "If you do, you are going to be denied your right to participate as a full citizen in our society."

The problem is the huge numbers of blacks and poor people convicted of crimes shows an unbelievable amount of discrimination and Sam Reed is a part of the machine which keeps those prisons filled up. Governor Gregiore is dealing with trying to balance the budget in Washington and is looking at closing two prisons and putting 25% of all inmates on home detention. Is home detention a new way to keep people in the system and shift the cost to inmates?

From the Tri-City Herald in Washington, is this editorial which was is supposed to be an opposing view. The problem is the evidence falls on the side of the constitution, justice, and the Voting Rights Act. Their tired old argument that inmates are in prison to be punished and should not vote does not fly in light of the reasons many of them are there which in part is to keep them from voting.

But Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the evidence showed that minorities and whites who committed crimes in Washington aren't treated equally. Allowing felons to vote benefits everyone, he said, because "participation legitimizes democracy."

State Attorney General Rob McKenna and Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed are seeking to have this latest ruling overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. That is our radicalized to the right supreme court who may very likely will overturn this ruling.

The basis upon which the original case was filed and the appellate decision rests is that the percentage of minorities in prison far outweighs their numbers in society at large.

Thus, according to an argument by the plaintiffs, the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires that all felons have the right to vote even while incarcerated. (Ordinarily, felons have their civil rights restored, upon application, after they have served their sentences and met any monetary claims against them rising out of the crime itself.)

The issues the lawsuit raises about racial bias in the justice system are not unique to Washington state, Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., group promoting sentencing reform, told the AP.

"They are issues that permeate the justice system and are relevant in every state," he said, adding that an estimated 5.3 million people nationwide are ineligible to vote because of felony convictions.

That is a lot of votes. If that number of felons voted as a bloc they could have swung the 1976 vote to Gerald Ford from Jimmy Carter; the 1992 vote to George H.W. Bush instead of Bill Clinton; the 2000 vote to Al Gore instead of George W. Bush and the 2004 vote to John Kerry.
All links inserted by me.

Don’t forget how Florida had a company in Texas make a “scrub list” of people who were supposed to be felons to bar them from voting in the presidential election. As it turned out almost all of them were not felons, but this demonstrates how the government can use the criminal justice system to remove voters due to past felonies. More citizens with felony charges in a particular district that votes democratic makes winning elections by republicans easier and in some cases as we have seen, it assures a win. This has been going on long enough and needs to end, but since we don't really have a democracy in this country I doubt it will.
Allowing inmates to vote would take away one of the incentives for putting millions in prisons, keeping them on probation/parole for years, and keeping them from voting. The huge controlling factor in all of this is the  corporations which supply and build prisons manipulating our legislators. Why do you think the war on crime was started? It was yet another so called war of propaganda to manipulate the public. All we have to do is look at the healthcare reform bill to know changing this is not going to happen anytime in the near future.

After prisoners are released they are often put on parole or probation. This extends the time they can’t vote (In the states where they can get voting rights back) and gives authorities an easy way to put them back in prison for technical violations. Prosecutors who have weak cases offer pleas knowing the accused will be frightened into taking them by their public defenders. My public defenders lied to me and kept repeating the mantra, “You never know what a jury will do“, when I told them I wanted a trial. The thought of a trial seemed to scare the hell out of them. Then technical violations (missing appointments with probation officers or falling behind on restitution payments to name a few) are used to incarcerate them for the whole sentence, rather than the reduced one they would have to serve if they just went ahead and served the sentence. This is one of the reasons for the trend of those on probation to go back to court and ask the judge to just let them serve their sentence. The state does not usually have to prove a crime was committed in these cases.

Denying civil rights to felons comes from medieval times concept of a “civil death”. When our country was founded a very limited number of white males were allowed to vote. Since then rights to vote have been extended to all of the excluded groups except felons (and sometimes minorities). Most people think that once an inmate serves their sentence they are free to rejoin society. Reentry into society is blocked by the stigma of being a felon which in Alaska includes publishing the information about court records in a way that is easily accessible, keeping felons from getting their PFD, charging restitution that is way out of proportion to the offense, blocking employment, and blocking housing. In Alaska one of the most important rights taken away for felons in rural areas is the use of firearms for subsistence hunting and protection, for natives it decreases the ability of many to participate in their culture. These rights are even taken from those who have convictions for non-violent crimes. Alaskans with felony convictions can only vote after they are off probation and have paid all of their restitution.

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