You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

ADAMS: Virginia Democrats get a new demographic, the felon vote

The law-abiding get a poke in the eye

- - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Democrats have long agitated for felons to enjoy full voting rights. It's no surprise why. When felons are allowed to vote, it is easier for Democrats to win elections.

Unfortunately, some Republicans in Virginia, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, have succumbed to one of the left's top partisan objectives.

Almost every state restricts the right of felons to vote. Virginia prohibits it altogether. On the other extreme, Maine and Vermont permit voting rights inside prisons. To loud applause from groups like the Advancement Project, Mr. McDonnell endorsed a proposal for Virginia to allow nonviolent felons to vote automatically when they leave prison. Early this week, a Republican-dominated subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates shot the proposal down.

The Advancement Project is best known for opposing efforts across the United States to combat voter fraud and election integrity.

Currently, felons in Virginia must submit individualized and detailed written requests justifying why they should be allowed to vote once released. Mr. McDonnell already liberalized the process, allowing nearly 4,400 more felons to participate in the 2012 presidential election. That's more than even Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine approved in his term.

The current individualized examination of the felon's conscience is a better policy than changing to an automatic restoration of voting rights.

It is no accident that Democrats and leftist civil rights groups want felons to vote. American history would have been very different without felon disenfranchisement laws.

For starters, a 2001 study at Northwestern University showed that if felons had the right to vote, George W. Bush would never have been elected in 2000. Republicans also would never have held the Senate in the 1980s or 1990s. The study demonstrated that felons overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

Simply put, American history would have been radically different. That's why the left is so eager to get felons to the polls. There are 350,000 felons in Virginia who have completed their prison sentences.

Don't forget, George W. Bush won Virginia by less than 300,000 votes each time. If Mr. McDonnell's plan had passed, Virginia could have passed forever beyond the grasp of Republican presidential nominees. Virginia Democrats were giddy that Mr. McDonnell and Republican Delegate Peter Farrell were on board.

Yet Anglo-American law has a long history of stripping felons of various rights. The right to vote is but one right felons lose. They also may not own guns and may not serve in some offices, such as a notary public.

You don't see the American Civil Liberties Union or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People working to get felons the right to own firearms. Some constitutional rights are apparently more important than others.

Prohibiting felons from voting is also a moral imperative. Those who have shown contempt for criminal laws should have no voice in the process of writing them. Giving felons a say in the legislative process means laws will naturally skew more toward the criminal, to the detriment of the law-abiding citizen.

It is immoral to reward criminals and automatically give them a voice in the legislative process equal to those who never committed felonies.

Confining the right to vote only to nonviolent felons is no answer, either. Thieves and burglars have already demonstrated a tendency toward fraud and deceit. Could voter fraud be their next crime?

Republican elected officials must realize that when it comes to election process issues such as felon voting and voter photo identification laws, they are regularly outsmarted by the organized left. Republicans who support their opponents' election law agenda will gain no friends, at least not friends they should want.

The NAACP and ACLU have lost the moral high ground they had a half-century ago. These "civil rights" groups have become mere cogs in the partisan electoral machine of the organized left. They support felon voting because it helps elect Democrats, not for any other reason.

These groups also have a tendency to cast aside any short-term Republican allies they can trick. Friendship, praise and higher office cannot be gained by capitulation to their agenda. Hopefully, Virginia Republicans will realize there is only peril in supporting the cause of criminals and the Democratic Party.

J. Christian Adams, who served in the Justice Department's Voting Section, is the New York Times best-selling author of "Injustice" (Regnery, 2011).