Just weeks after Attorney General Holder highlighted the issue of felon disenfranchisement, members of Congress have introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to 4.4 million Americans who are out of prison and living in the community. Read more…
Last Friday, as the URJ’s representative in the DC Voting Rights Coalition, I participated in the DC Vote Annual Lobby Day. Joining with other organizations in the coalition, we took the Hill by storm—in total, representatives from the coalition conducted dozens of meetings with House and Senate staffers on this issue.
During a week of important election reform developments coming from the Supreme Court, it is worth highlighting the work of civil rights advocates responding to a similar Court decision, Shelby v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Since that decision was handed down last June, members of the civil rights community have been hard at work developing a bill that would ensure access to the ballot box for all Americans.
By Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk
Is it 2014? Tell me, really. I live and work as a rabbi in the State of Ohio where you’d think it was 1964. In Ohio, our Secretary of State, our legislature, our Governor and so many others speak out against cheating in the election system. They don’t point to any causes of voter fraud because the insinuation that there is rampant fraud and unfairness in our election system is itself a fraud. Just two years ago, the Ohio legislature passed a massive election system overhaul called Ohio House Bill 194 and then was forced to withdraw its implementation. Why? Because thousands upon thousands of Ohioans made their voice known that voter ID laws, restrictions on poll workers from helping voters find the proper polling location, and cutbacks in early voting hours, were unfair restrictions and were roundly rejected by the citizens of Ohio. Read more…
Since I last wrote about the Voting Rights Amendment Act on this blog, the crucial bill has continued to make progress in Congress, as cosponsors of both parties continue to sign on in support of the bill. Advocates are hopeful that the bill’s provisions can be implemented before the midterm Congressional election in November of this year, a decisive deadline.
Attorney General Eric Holder has made an effort in recent months to elevate key civil rights issues, especially those issues affecting our nation’s broken criminal justice system. One unexpected issue the Attorney General has chosen to highlight is the crucial problem of felon disenfranchisement. Amidst a backdrop of increasing bipartisan support for sentencing reform on Capitol Hill, increased knowledge about the racial disparities of mandatory minimum sentences, new questions about capital punishment and other significant developments in the areas of criminal justice and civil rights, the issue of felon disenfranchisement is another moral challenge of our time—and one gaining bipartisan momentum.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration released its final report in late January. President Obama established the Commission by Executive Order on March 28, 2013, after the 2012 elections were plagued by serious voting problems around the country. Co-chaired by the chief lawyers for the 2012 Obama and Romney campaigns, the mission of the Commission was to “identify best practices in election administration and to make recommendations to improve the voting experience.”