…and, no, that’s not a sentence I ever expected to write. But when you’re right, you’re right. To wit:
Rand Paul fights for felon voting rights
Tayna Fogle sat just behind Sen. Rand Paul, nodding her head and listening as he pressed the case with Kentucky state senators to restore felon voting rights. “Kids do make mistakes. White kids make mistakes. Black kids make mistakes. Brown kids make mistakes,” Paul told the Kentucky state Senate committee considering a constitutional amendment to restore the voting rights of some felons on Wednesday. “But when you look at the prison population, three out of the four people in prison are black or brown.”
Fogle whispered: “Good for you. I’m glad someone is speaking up.”
She felt as if he was narrating her life. In 1991, the former University of Kentucky basketball team captain received a 10-year sentence for crack cocaine possession. Since her release, she has been unable to vote. “I remember when my mom showed me how to vote for the very first time. I remember watching the movies of my ancestors getting mauled by dogs and water hoses,” Fogle said, her voice cracking a bit. “It changed my life completely. I was an embarrassment to my family. My community. “I’m not making any excuses for my behavior. Should I have gotten a 10-year sentence? Yes, I should have. Have I served my time? Yes, I have.”
The issue of restoring felon voting rights has made for some unusual alliances as former felons, like Fogle, see in lawmakers like Paul, a tea party-backed Republican, a champion. Nationally, about 5.8 million people are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions, according to Attorney Gen. Eric Holder. In the swing states of Florida and Virginia, one in five black adults is unable to vote because of these laws, according to Holder. In Paul’s home state of Kentucky, it’s also one in five.
“Somewhere along the line he gained a lot of knowledge,” Fogle said of Paul’s push to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons. “He has seen the disenfranchisement,” said Fogle, a community organizer with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a nonprofit grassroots organization that has pushed to restore the voting rights of felons.
This is something that I’ve always thought, and I’m glad to see a major political figure like Senator Paul speaking out on this issue and attempting to do something about it. I don’t even care if, as some may think, he’s just doing this to raise his profile and perhaps gain some Black votes for when (and it is WHEN, not IF) he runs for President (& he may be teaming up with the NAACP next), that’s irrelevant to me. This is still the right thing to, regardless of the exact motives behind it. Heck, forget the racial component here, even if the practice of denying felons the right to vote DIDN’T disproportionally affect people of color, I would still feel the same way on this issue. Free citizens deserve the right to vote. Period. I’m no Constitutional scholar, but it seems like it should be unconstitutional for that right to be denied. I know that this is the part where all the hardcore law and order types will chime in and say things like, THEY SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE THEY COMMITTED A CRIME, etc. But, c’mon. Like Senator Paul said, some people make mistakes. And we’re not all talking about mass murderers or terrorists or whatever. Is prison supposed to just be about punishment, or should rehabilitation be part of the goal? If we’re talking about people who are eventually going to be released from prison and returned to the public, then don’t we want them to become productive members of society and not go back to their criminal ways? Then there needs to be incentives for that, if you just continue to treat people like criminals for their rest of their lives then we shouldn’t go surprised if they go back to acting like criminals.
So, to be clear here, we are talking about after someone has, as we like to say, “paid their debt to society” and served their term, then they should get their right to vote back. We want them to get restart their lives, get gainful employment and, most importantly, pay taxes like every other law-abiding citizen. Then don’t they have the right to have a say in who drafts those laws like everyone else. Isn’t one of, if not THE, most basic reasons this country was formed because of the idea of NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION? So that’s what this is about, as far as I’m concern, and I applaud Senator Paul for his stance.
Add this to the fact that he was the only major Republican to unequivocally denounce Ted Nugent’s disgusting remarks about President Obama, and I have to say that this man may be winning me over.