CNN’s Dana Bash stirred Twitter election watchers Tuesday when she tweeted, “something u (sic) don’t see every day. Inmates will help bring ballots here in (Jefferson) county Alabama…”
Early evening video, pouring into the network’s Alabama and Mississippi presidential primary broadcast, showed two local jail inmates, one black and one white, seated on folding chairs and staring miserably into space. The two waited to assist county election officials with carrying bags of paper ballots and electronic memory cards into a vault, a short distance from their seats.
It almost looked like a reverse bank robbery. Both men were dressed in bright, orange-striped prison attire. And both looked less than pleased to have national TV cameras transmitting what some watchers characterized as a humiliating exercise.
CNN’s anchors and field reporters appeared too wrapped up in competing to be the first network to call Alabama for Rick Santorum, to pause and tell viewers that they were looking at a symbol of America’s disenfranchised class.
Moreover, the images conjure up a stark reality in America’s record of voter disenfranchisement. While Bash confirmed the two inmates weren’t considered dangerous and were likely jailed for misdemeanors, Alabama is one of 11 states where ex-convicts might live the rest of their lives without the right to vote again.
Statistically, African American males know this reality all too well. Add them to the estimated millions of other minorities, senior citizens and young adults who could be turned away from polling places, if a spur in unfair voter ID laws isn’t abated.
The American Civil Liberties Union and The Sentencing Project estimates that more than 5 million felons are prohibited from casting ballots. Black men are disproportionately affected, as 1.4 million of them do not have voting rights, even after their release from federal, state or county lockup.
“The real shame is that over the last decade, at the state level, you had been seeing a trend of easing” disenfranchisement, said Deborah Vagins, senior legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington office.
Criminal disenfranchisement measures sprang up during the same era as Jim Crow poll taxes. Today’s voter ID laws were crafted in that same vein, to be suppressive in nature.
“The fact that this has its root in Jim Crow makes it an even more sad and unfair legacy of our past,” Vagins said.
It’s probably hard to imagine how the issue is important outside of the minority community. Look no further than Italian-American law student Jessica Chiappone. Having already served her time for a felony drug conviction, Chiappone’s law career depends on her being admitted to the Florida Bar. She cannot be admitted without first being re-enfranchised, which a recently toughened Florida law currently prohibits.
Vagins, along with Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, is aiding a congressional effort to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, S. 2017 (DRA). The federal measure would simplify re-enfranchisement processes, restoring voting rights to anyone who has satisfactorily completed their felony sentence.
Both a Senate bill and a House bill have been introduced and are likely to be briefed sometime during this congressional session.
Along with Alabama and Florida, convicted felons in Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming are permanently stripped of their voting rights, with some exceptions.
[ALSO READ: “Sharpton: ‘Repeal’ Immigration Laws”]
An estimated 4 million ex-convicts, who have long since re-entered their communities, go on without any help in restoring their voting rights, according to the ACLU.
If America is a nation of laws, based on fundamental fairness, the propping up of a permanently disenfranchised class should give everyone pause.
“Our election system should not be continuing to punish people for the rest of their lives,” Vagins said.
Link to original Loop21 article
The federal judge who oversaw the political prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was arrested over the weekend after allegedly beating his wife in a posh hotel room in Atlanta...
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller was charged with misdemeanor battery and taken to the Fulton County jail around 2:30 Sunday morning. Fuller, 55, is a judge in the Middle District of Alabama and presided over the 2006 bribery trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
Police responded to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 181 Peachtree...
Brad Friedman | The Brad Blog 12 Aug 2014 Hits:711 Alabama
For the second time this year, prisoners in Alabama are planning a nonviolent demonstration and work stoppage to protest conditions inside the state’s prisons.
Melvin Ray, an inmate at the St. Clair correctional facility in Springville and founder of prison-based group Free Alabama Movement (FAM) says this weekend’s strike is an effort to improve education programs and end overcrowding, harsh sentencing, and what he calls “the free labor system” in which prisoners work for little-to-no monetary compensation.
In an interview with Salon, Ray said, “There is not even a pretense of doing...
Nick Ramsey | MSNBC 20 Apr 2014 Hits:442 Alabama
Alabama's 7th District Congresswoman Terri Sewell just released this press release a few moments ago. We are delighted that she has joined with Progressive Democrats of America, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and the Birmingham Metro Chapter of the NAACP to urge Governor Bentley to accept federal Medicaid funds and has herewith shown her convictions on this issue. From Rep. Sewell...
Statement from Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell Urging the State of Alabama to Expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
December 10, 2013
“Beginning in January, millions of Americans will begin receiving health coverage under...
Edward Savela 10 Dec 2013 Hits:566 Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) - Frigid temperatures Saturday afternoon didn't keep a group from rallying in protest of Governor Robert Bentley's decision not to expand the state's Medicaid Programs.
For months, Alabama has stood firm behind its decision to opt out of the Medicaid expansion set to go into effect next year as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Among the diverse group was recent Samford University graduate Elizabeth Milne.
Milne is currently working two jobs, neither provide options for healthcare. She's also a foster child, and cannot get insurance through her parents.
Tiffany Westry | cbs42 08 Dec 2013 Hits:542 Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Representatives of Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Birmingham chapter of the NAACP and the Progressive Democrats of America gathered Monday in Birmingham's Kelly Ingram Park to urge Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to expand Medicaid coverage in Alabama under the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare.
"Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do now," Scott Douglas, the executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, said. "Now is the right time to do it, and Alabama's working families need it, and that should be reason enough. If the governor refuses...
Madison Underwood | AL.com 28 Oct 2013 Hits:569 Alabama
Listen to our show with Dana and Joseph Siegelman
Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, now in federal prison, is coming up on his one-year anniversary of unjust incarceration. Don is not a criminal. He is an American political prisoner—targeted, prosecuted, and jailed unjustly.
We need your help. Please join us in asking President Obama to pardon Don and set him free now!
One hundred and thirteen former and current Attorneys General (Republicans and Democrats) signed an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court stating that Don's "crime" was no crime at all.
Mimi Kennedy 30 Aug 2013 Hits:746 Alabama
In the past two years, one state party chairman was investigated by the local bar association. Elsewhere, an about-to-be-ousted party leader changed the locks at the headquarters. Two more state parties were threatened with eviction.
Traditionally, state parties have been the meeting point between the national political organizations and the local ground game. But in recent cycles, many of them have become so dysfunctional that they are now irrelevant — or even worse, detrimental, to the national party’s efforts.
The reasons behind their ineptitude vary: Some parties struggle with finances, others with...
Abby Livingston | Roll Call 24 Jul 2013 Hits:838 Alabama
On Thursday, August 15, 2013 at the Birmingham Sheraton in Birmingham, Alabama, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (Federation) will honor the legendary C.T. Vivian at its Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner. William Nelson, President of the CHS Foundation, will serve as honorary chair of the event. The Annual Meeting will be held on August 16 & 17 at the Federation's Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama; however, some events and workshops will also take place in Birmingham on August 15 (please see the agenda for...
Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund 23 Jul 2013 Hits:764 Alabama
Exactly one week after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, hundreds gathered for another march and rally in Birmingham, part of a nationwide effort spearheaded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
More than 500 people marched, chanted and sang this afternoon outside Birmingham City Hall and in Kelly Ingram Park to speak out against Zimmerman's acquittal.
Sharpton's National Action Network organized "Justice for Trayvon" rallies in at least 101 cities Saturday, Birmingham's rally among them. Sharpton called for the rallies to be in front...
Kelsey Stein | al.com 21 Jul 2013 Hits:640 Alabama
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Voters without photo identification will have two options for getting a free ID from the state before the state's new photo voter ID law kicks in next year, Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced today.
Alabama’s new law requiring people to show a government-issued photo ID to vote is scheduled to go into effect with the party primaries in June of 2014. The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- also requires that the state have...
Kim Chandler | AL.com 30 Jun 2013 Hits:641 Alabama
In case you haven’t heard…
The Robert's Court just dealt a hostile and destructive blow to democracy. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has stood as perhaps the greatest triumph for democracy in modern times. Prior to the passage of the VRA of 1965, many states routinely, and blatantly discriminated against voting registration of African Americans. As just one example, in Dallas Country Alabama--home to Selma and where the Bloody Sunday march for voting rights began--of 15,000 eligible black voters in 1965, only 338 were registered. Devious methods were employed throughout the South, and some...
Edward Savela | PDA Alabama 25 Jun 2013 Hits:1754 Alabama
(NaturalNews) When a group of uniformed men wearing guns sets up a road block then ask you to "volunteer" a DNA sample and blood sample, it stretches the definition of "volunteer." But that's what happened in Alabama yesterday as off-duty cops in two counties set up DNA collection roadblocks and stopped cars to ask if drivers wanted to "volunteer" DNA swabs and blood samples.
It was all part of a study being conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which is probably studying what percentage of the sheeple population...
Mike Adams | Natural News.com 12 Jun 2013 Hits:1774 Alabama
The Nuns on the Bus, led by Sr. Simone, is on a 6,500 mile journey through predominantly Republican states to encourage our Senate to pass immigration reform. Sr. Simone and others gave inspirational talks calling us to action and reminding us that Christian doctrine commands us to welcome strangers. She and the others reminded us that we first discriminated against the Native Americans, the Irish, the Jews, the Catholic immigrants. This is in our history. It is time to extend the welcome mat to the Hispanic community too through responsible...
Edward Savela | PDA Alabama 05 Jun 2013 Hits:652 Alabama
As some of you might know already, Nuns on the Bus will be making a pass through the south in June. Below are the dates in our states:
6/3 - Orlando, FL, 3pm - Daniel Webster - lobby visit
6/4 - Tallahassee, FL, 10 am - Marco Rubio - lobby visit
6/5 - Birmingham, AL - civil rights rally
6/5 - Atlanta, GA - Chambliss - lobby visit
To give you some background: Sister Simone, who runs NETWORK (a Catholic social justice lobby in DC), and other nuns will be taking a bus tour along...
Edward Savela 14 May 2013 Hits:729 Alabama
On April 15, 2013, the Northeast Alabama Labor Council in Gadsden endorsed HR 676, national single payer health care legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers.
President Garry "Gabby" Frost brought the resolution before the council in response to an appeal from the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care--HR 676 and from Pippa Abston, MD, Ph D, a board member of Physicians for a National Health Program and a Huntsville, Alabama, pediatrician.
"Health care is a necessity not a privilege," said President Frost after the adoption of the resolution for HR...
Kay Tillow 22 Apr 2013 Hits:764 Alabama
The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was observed with events throughout the city and extended to Washington D.C. where Rep. Terri Sewell marked today by reading an excerpt of the famous treatise.
Sewell, D-Birmingham, used her time on the House of Representatives floor to read a portion of the letter.
"The letter became one of the most preeminent documents of the civil rights era," Sewell told her colleagues. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail stands as a reminder of how far we have come in our nation in...
Jseoph D. Bryant | AL.com 21 Apr 2013 Hits:962 Alabama
MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — Police SWAT teams and hostage negotiators were locked in a standoff Wednesday with a gunman authorities say intercepted a school bus, killed the driver, snatched a 6-year-old boy and retreated into a bunker at his home.
The gunman, identified by neighbors as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old retired truck driver, was known as “the crazy man” of the neighborhood, a paranoid and menacing figure who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children...
Phillip Rawls | Associated Press 30 Jan 2013 Hits:733 Alabama
When Diane Derzis shut the doors of the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic in Birmingham, Ala., last May, she did not expect the clinic to be shut for good.
Derzis, known as the “Abortion Queen” by both her opponents and her supporters in the Deep South, was under investigation by the Alabama Department of Public Health after two of her patients were given an improper dosage of medication. Though Derzis self-reported the incident, which resulted in transporting the two women to a hospital via ambulance but no...
by Lauren Barbato | Ms Blog 22 Sep 2012 Hits:1060 Alabama
The former Alabama governor was perhaps the highest profile victim of Karl Rove's political machine, sentenced to six years for bribery. Now his last hope for freedom is a presidential pardon
Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, has a particular reason to be lobbying for Barack Obama's re-election at this week's Democratic national convention.
Siegelman is in Charlotte at the pleasure of a federal judge, and is just days away from resuming a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence, following a widely publicised conviction on bribery charges stemming from...
Andrew Gumbel | The Guardian UK 10 Sep 2012 Hits:1483 Alabama
Protestors from Tuscaloosa and as far as California gathered in front of the Federal Courthouse Building on University Boulevard to sound off over the Alabama anti-immigration law on Monday afternoon.
The demonstrators included several undocumented Hispanic immigrants, who said so via megaphone on the courthouse steps as they called the Alabama law an injustice to immigrants living in the state.
The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered a lower court to block enforcement of a section of Alabama's immigration law that required ...
Ben Flanagan | Blog AL.com 21 Aug 2012 Hits:911 Alabama
NEWSFLASH: A federal appeals court struck down key sections of Alabama’s immigration law in a ruling released today, including a provision mandating that school officials check the immigration status of newly enrolled students. And the 11th Circuit ruled that Alabama and Georgia cannot punish people for harboring or transporting an undocumented immigrant. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed a somewhat narrowed version of Arizona’s “Show-Me-Your-Papers” provision to go into effect, the appeals court letAlabama and Georgia to begin enforcing a law allowing state and local police to investigate the...
Amanda Peterson Beadle | Think Progress 20 Aug 2012 Hits:857 Alabama
I guess most people know that I have been working with Governor Siegelman for over seven years. I'm very proud that we have a very close friendship. I…
Following years of appeals and a vocal campaign by supporters, ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is heading back to prison after being sentenced Friday to more than six years…
In December of 2004, while working at a massive poultry plant in Alabama, Delores Smith slipped on the greasy floor and collapsed into a heap. In considerable pain,…
Thanks to the John Birch Society, "environmentalism" is no longer an issue in Alabama -- by state law. Who knew fixing it all would be that easy?
Immigration violations are civil, not criminal infractions. But for many non-criminal immigrant detainees living alongside criminal inmates at the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama, that distinction…
When is an anti-choice group actually for abortion? When it comes to defending a law that could help them in their endless quest to give full legal rights…
AL Senator Linda Coleman
A little over a week ago, Alabama pediatrician Pippa Abston had enough.
In response to Alabama's forced vaginal ultrasound bill, Abston posted a video expressing her outrage,…
Numerous organizations and leaders who identify themselves as pro-life have assured the public that their efforts to re-criminalize abortion and establish the unborn as separate legal persons…
TV images are searing reminder of disenfranchisement of African American felons.
CNN’s Dana Bash stirred Twitter election watchers Tuesday when she tweeted, “something u (sic) don’t see every day. Inmates will…
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