Note: Much of PostScript today is, at press time, overtaken by newer news! Enjoy.

Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

PostScript is always pleased when an editorial gets enough comments to rise to the surface of the PostScript Bunker koi pond, which is called that so invading hordes won’t notice it’s a moat. Today’s editorial on restoring voter rights to felons after they’re released from prison got more than 300 comments on enough different aspects of the piece to confuse all the moat sharks with “KOI” written on them in waterproof Sharpie.

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) has made efforts to make it easier to restore voting rights to felons who have served their time, but as the editorial argues, there are more things he can and must do from a democratic standpoint. Gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has looked into it as well. The editorial suggests the current law, one of the most restrictive in the nation, is aimed at reducing the African American voting population.

First in the comments is the issue of voting as a privilege that must be earned or earned back:

Getreal

I was taught in my grade school civics class that voting is a privilege not a right. By violating the rules of society (committing felonies), these folks have lost the privilege. Just because they have “paid their debt to society” does not mean that they have earned the privilege of voting.

aahpat

You were taught WRONG. Otherwise The Voting RIGHTS Act of 1965 would be called the Voting Privilege Act of 1965. Home schooled much?

Ouch. Next the commenters compare the right to vote and the right to bear arms, which are both restricted for ex-felons in Virginia’s case.

amazd

Let’s apply the same restrictions to voting as we do to gun purchases. After all, the restrictions against gun purchases restrict offenders who have served their time and paid their debt to society.

Section 922(g) of the Brady Act prohibits certain persons from possessing any firearm. These prohibitions apply to any person who:
Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Has a record of being a felon.

Aha! And, tmx argues, a Virginia felony might not be as bad as you think it is:

It is a felony in VA to possess 1/2 oz of marijuana or more, or to grow any marijuana plants.

§ 18.2-361. Crimes against nature; penalty. If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony…”

According to tmx’s link, the carnal knowledge statute isn’t currently law, but Cucinnelli has spoken of reinstating it. PostScript would guess that strict and aggressive prosecution of these laws would make Virginia vote totals much easier to tally.

Cpt.Hook isn’t convinced voting is all it’s cracked up to be:

It’s not as if there’s anybody running who’s worth voting for this year.

And theduke89 resents that a charge against the Virginia Legislature can be couched in slippery langugage without stated evidence:

“Mr. McDonnell (R) has supported a change in the constitution, and so has the state Senate. But they’ve been blocked by Republicans in the House of Delegates, who may fear an infusion of African American voters.” If you are going to make an accusation like that, back it up with statistics or a valid argument. If you are accusing individual Republicans of being racists, name names and prove it. I have never seen a more despicable, disgusting and demonstrably false accusation made by a so-called mainstream media newspaper. I think Republicans in Virginia are due an apology. Innuendo is not a valid way to influence opinion in order to give convicted felons the right to vote. This is a form of McCarthyism. “John L. ____ MAY have had connections to the Communist Party.” The editorial board of the Washington Post should be ashamed, but that is probably too much to ask.

Hm. PostScript would argue that it’s not illegal or necessarily racist to fear a category of voters among whom one’s party tends to do poorly, nor has The Post named a particular person, as in theduke’s example. Also she has no idea how this implication could be “demonstrably false.” As to whether the Editorial Board should be ashamed, she has no way of guessing.

Jeroboam takes the implication that restoring ex-felons’ voting rights would be helpful to the Democratic Party as given:

Let’s reduce this to its essentials, shall we? If felons are permitted to cast ballots, Democrats, as the tribunes of the criminal class, will get more votes. One party likes this. The other one doesn’t. Guess which is which. All the blather beyond that about “rights” and “responsibilities” is just posturing.

But raywilliams assumes the opposite, especially if a Republican, Cuccinelli, in fact restores voting rights. Those voters in particular will be particularly grateful:

Ken Cuccinelli, needing every possible vote he can find to avoid embarrassment, now wants felons to vote.

And aahpat returns to argue that re-enfranchisement is the key to a whole host of issues for freed felons:

Give them their voting rights and politicians will be less reluctant to write laws that block these Americans from returning to society. They are easy targets for abuse by politicians as long as they have no say in their lives for the rest of their lives.

It would, arguably be easier for ex-felons to care about and contribute to a society that hasn’t completely written them off.