‘Case of the Week’ 6 (NCFCA): Felon Voting

Important Disclaimer: We pretty much just throw these together over the weekend, and don’t put a lot of work into them. Case of the Week cases are not subject to the same editorial process and stringent quality standards as the COG 2013 sourcebook, and are frequently contributed by non-COG authors. You may find material and sources in these cases that would not appear in the sourcebook. That said, we hope these cases will be useful to you; enjoy!

About the Author: Evan Davis competes in Region 2, and has qualified to the NCFCA National Championship twice.

1AC: Democracy Restoration Act

By Evan Davis

Democracy has long been a cornerstone of our nation – allowing every man and woman to have a voice. But while democracy is very important in our society, millions of American’s are still denied the right to vote. So we stand Resolved: that federal election law should be significantly reformed in the United States.

Definition: The Democracy Restoration Act

Burt Neuborne (Professor of Civil Liberties at New York Univeristy School of Law), March 16, 2010; “Testimon of Professor Burt Neubourn in Support of H.R. 3335, The Democracy Restoration Act” http://www.brennancenter.org/legislation/testimony-prof-burt-neuborne-support-hr-3335-democracy-restoration-act [brackets added] [ESD]

“Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of H.R. 3335, the Democracy Restoration Act [or DRA]. This legislation would restore the right to vote in federal elections to millions of our fellow citizens who have a criminal conviction in their past, but who have been released from prison and have rejoined their communities. The Brennan Center believes that it is both morally wrong and socially self-defeating to exclude citizens who are living and working in the community from full participation in our democracy. I am confident that the federal government possesses ample constitutional authority to enact this legislation which will restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4 million American citizens.”

The DRA would give millions of post-convicts a vote. Currently, the system restricts voting if anyone has committed a crime in the past, as we see in out next point…

Fact: Disenfranchisement

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, 2009; “Restoring Voting Rights” http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/voting_after_criminal_conviction [ESD]

“Voting is both a fundamental right and a civic duty. However there remains one significant blanket barrier to the franchise: 5.3 million American citizens are not allowed to vote because of a criminal conviction. As many as 4 million of these people live, work, and raise families in our communities, but because of a conviction in their past they are still denied the right to vote.”
Millions of citizens can’t vote today – resulting in the following problems.

Problem 1: Reentry Obstructed

New York Times, March 21, 2010; “Ex-offenders and the Vote” (Editorial) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/opinion/22mon3.html [ESD]

“Millions of ex-offenders who have been released from prison are denied the right to vote. That undercuts efforts to reintegrate former prisoners into mainstream society. And it goes against one of democracy’s most fundamental principles: that governments should rule with the consent of the governed.”

Smart On Crime (a highly accredited coalition composed of over 40 organizations), April 2008 or later; (internally dated) “Re-entry—ensure successful reintegration after incarceration” http://www.besmartoncrime.org/14_history.php [ESD]

“Denying individuals the right to vote even after they have repaid their debts to society perpetuates the insidious discrimination against this population that makes reentry so difficult.”

Problem 2: Democracy Harmed

New York Times also , October 19, 2010; “Their Debt is Paid” (Editorial) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/opinion/20wed4.html?adxnnl=1&ref=felonydisenfranchisement&adxnnlx=1374696004-MxN5OomSRiD39/8mEDkz/Q [ESD]

“Democracy is strengthened when as many citizens as possible have the right to vote. Fully integrating ex-offenders back into society is also the best way to encourage their lasting rehabilitation. It is past time for all states to restore individual voting rights automatically to ex-offenders who have served their time.”

Erika Wood (Associate Professor of Law) Brennan Center for Justice, March 16, 2010; (Erika L. Wood joined NYLS in fall 2011 to teach Legal Practice. Previously, she was the Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, where she designed and launched major reform campaigns around the country and provided legal counsel and strategic guidance to advocates, legislators, and policymakers nationwide. Professor Wood created the Brennan Center Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Advisory Council as well as the Center’s Communities of Faith Initiative. She has litigated complex civil rights cases and is a frequent speaker and commentator on voting rights, criminal justice reform and racial justice issues. Professor Wood previously taught as an adjunct professor in the Public Policy Advocacy Clinic at New York University School of Law and was an attorney with the Legal Action Center. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets across the country, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Public Radio. In 2009, Professor Wood was awarded the Eric. R. Neisser Public Interest Award by Rutgers Law School in recognition of her efforts to carry forward the law school’s mission of providing liberty and justice for all.) “House leaders weigh restoring voting rights for millions” http://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/senate-bill-would-restore-voting-rights-millions-american-citizens [ESD]

“Excluding millions of citizens from the franchise only weakens our democracy. Congress should pass the Democracy Restoration Act because a strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation, across all sectors of society,” said Wood.

The problem is real. Many Americans, who have fully paid for past crimes, are still tormented – they can’t vote! These people face major difficulty reintegrating into society. Additionally, disenfranchisement harms democracy. Millions do not have a voice.

Obviously, a reform is needed. We offer the following

Plan

Agency and Enforcement: The United States Federal Government.

Mandate: Pass the Democracy Restoration Act of 2011.

This plan shall be passed immediately, and no funding is necessary for it’s implementation

Once passed, our plan will improve our nation, as we can see in:

Advantage: Less Crime

Brennan Center for Justice, July 2009; “The DRA Fact Sheet” http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/DRA%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf [ESD]

“Passing the Democracy Restoration Act will restore the right to vote in federal elections to American citizens who are released from prison or serving probation sentences.”

Smart on Crime, April 2008 or later; (internally dated) “Re-entry—ensure successful reintegration after incarceration” http://www.besmartoncrime.org/14_history.php [ESD]

“Furthermore, voting promotes reentry because it encourages individuals to become engaged in their communities and to engage in socially responsible conduct. In fact, a study by sociologists Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza found that, among persons with a prior arrest, “27% of non-voters were re-arrested over a three-year period, compared with only 12% of voters.”

Justin Jones (Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections), December 16, 2011; Published by the Brennan Center for Justice “Senate Bill Would Restore Voting Rights for Millions of American Citizens” http://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/senate-bill-would-restore-voting-rights-millions-american-citizens [ESD]

“‘One of the preeminent means of increasing public safety is to reduce recidivism. A key component is to involve offenders in civil activities designed to engage the disenfranchised,’ said Justin Jones, Director, Oklahoma Department of Corrections. ‘The restoration of voting rights provided by this bill is a crucial step in reintegrating offenders into pro-social responsibilities.’”

It is clear that passing the DRA will improve society. By letting those who are disenfranchised vote, you can ultimately reduce crime rates. Unite with us in bringing this necessary reform to the voting system.

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