#Abraham Lincoln- on Felons Right to vote


By Oct. 25, 2012
Image: The statue of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial
DAVE ETHERIDGE-BARNES / GETTY IMAGESThe statue of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial

Last month at New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, I had the opportunity to see Abraham Lincoln’s draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, written in his remarkably elegant, almost feminine handwriting. I was surprised by my reaction. I felt a warm flush of gratitude, and even found myself murmuring “Thank you.” The freedom of four million people is no small thing.

(MORECover Story: Lincoln to the Rescue by David von Drehle)

Lincoln not only advocated black freedom, but in the last speech of his life, he voiced support for giving the vote to some freed black men as well as about 200,000 black Civil War veterans, a decision that literally cost him his life. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was in the audience that night and upon hearing Lincoln’s views, turned to his companion and said “that means ni**er citizenship. Now by God, I’ll put him through.” Two days later, Booth murdered the President.

Knowing that, I began to wonder what Lincoln would make of controversial laws denying far too many blacks the right to vote today. As legal scholar Michelle Alexander has pointed out in her book, The New Jim Crow, more black people are either in prison or jail, or on probation, or parole than were enslaved when the Civil War began. What that means is that in 2004, almost 280,000 black women were denied the vote, even if they had already served theirtime. And if the research that we have from 2010 holds true for today, at least 1.4 million black men will be denied their right to vote on this upcoming election day. Nationwide, almost eight percent of all African Americans—and 13 percent of all black men—will not be able to cast a vote next month. These laws hit blacks disproportionately hard. Although 3.9 million whites also lost the right to vote due to these laws, that figure represents roughly 2 percent of their total population. Overall, these numbers are so troubling that in 2008, a United Nations Committee studies the issue and urged the United States to reform these laws.

(MORETouré: Put To Death for Being Black? New Hope Against Judicial System Bias)

These so called “felony disenfranchisement” policies were first enacted in Southern states beginning in 1870 when the 15th amendment giving black men the right to vote was ratified. The policies were designed to keep blacks from going to the polls, and they continue to do so today. The laws prohibit voting in both state and federal elections and, as was true in the 19th century, are enacted on a state-by-state basis. As a recent report from the Sentencing Project shows, while 9 states impose a lifetime voting ban on convicted felons, in 32 states felons can vote after completing parole and three states have no prohibition and even allow prisoners to vote. A majority of those denied access to voting are in the South: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia and in some of these states, felony convictions have led to staggeringly high percentages of blacks losing their right to vote. For example, this year in Virginia such laws will deny 20 percent of the overall black population the right to vote, and in Florida the number is an even higher 23 percent.

(MOREViewpoint: Will Blacks Vote For Obama Because He’s Black?)

Unlike giving black men the vote in Lincoln’s time, public opinion today largely favors restoring voting rights to felons after they have served their time. In one of the few polls on the issue, University of Minnesota Professor Christopher Uggen conducted a telephone survey involving a random sample of 1000 people. Sixty percent thought voting rights should be restored as soon as an individual left prison and 68% thought we should wait until they had completed parole. But only 31% believed that current prisoners should be allowed to vote, which may be in part because it could be quite easy for prison officials to coerce the votes of those still behind bars.

For those who have completed their sentence however, research shows that when voting rights are restored, they have a much lower chance of becoming repeat offenders, and are more productively integrated back into their communities.

In Lincoln’s day, John Wilkes Booth was far from alone in his views about black people and voting. Following Lincoln’s death, black enfranchisement continued to be hotly and even violently contested throughout the south for the next 100 years, up to and even after the passage of the voting rights act in 1965. But considering that today enfranchisement for former felons enjoys widespread public support, we need only turn that support into political will and then action. We know what Lincoln would do. The question is, are we willing to follow his example?

 @nrookie

Rooks is an associate professor at Cornell University. The views expressed are solely her own.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/25/what-would-lincoln-think-about-laws-denying-felons-the-right-to-vote/#ixzz2ANpVH7AP

 

What “Rape Sonograms” Are Really About



This week, the Virginia State Legislature – joining Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa – passed two of the country’s most restrictive abortion bills. One, a personhood anti-abortion bill and the other, mandating a coercive mandatory transvaginal probe for women seeking abortions. This week’s momentum of the “personhood” movement is not surprising in that it is closely tied to conservative Republican’s inability to target the economy as a problem in a campaign year. A shift in focus on social issues is logical.

It struck me as particularly meaningful, therefore, that I was watching The Loving Story as I thought about the passage of these bills. That documentary is about the mixed race couple who took their challenge of Virginia’s anti-miscegenation slavery laws to the Supreme Court in 1963, exactly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Can you tell by looking at it, if that map is a map of states considering personhood bills or a map of the states that had anti-miscegentation laws up to 100 years after Emancipation? Of the states that have introduced personhood bills 77% had anti-miscegenation laws on their books as late as 1948-1967. Of the 16 states that never repealed their anti-misegenation laws, but rather had them overturned by Loving vs. Virginia, more than half have introduced personhood bills.

These statistics are not a coincidence. Racism, sexism, homophobia – they go hand in hand and the people oppressed by them experience them in intersecting ways. Worldwide, women’s human rights are complicated by these intersections.

Like these two Virginia bills, anti-misegenation laws were really not about “morality” or “decency”, but about social order. They’re not about “personhood” but “humanity.” Sex, controlling other people’s private lives, dictating what they do with their bodies and controlling their “place” in society. The more “human” you perceive yourself to be, the more you presume you have authority to tell others how to be and what to do. And, like those laws, these bills are based on ignorance, entitlement and arrogance. After many years, the Lovings won their landmark case and succeeded in finally dismantling shameful government-sanctioned racism in regards to mixed-race marriages.

Exactly how ugly and perversely wrong do things have to get before people pay attention to how fragile women’s rights and choices are in the face of sexism, misogyny, and legislative bullying? Is requiring women to undergo a medically unnecessary, invasive vaginal penetration bad enough? To me, it sounds as punitive, threatening and coercive as “virginity tests” that female Egyptian anti-government protestors were subjected to last year.

Personhood bills grant full rights, privileges and immunities to multicellular diploid eukaryotes. They also, for good measure, restrict and may entirely ban hormonal contraception. The second Virginia bill, and others like it, is what I want to focus on here. It forces any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. Without her consent.

You see, if you raise the bar for decency, humanity and safety so far up, it might make your actual indecency and coded threats of violence seem somehow reasonable.

Either that, or the Republican Virginia legislators are unclear about what “trans,” ”vaginal,” and “consent” mean. “Trans,” a panic-inducing prefix for conservatives, means “across.” “Vaginal” means a place in a woman’s body to put phallic things into when the government wants to. For someone that hasn’t had to or will never have to experience it this is how Medline Plus explains what happens when you put “trans” and “vaginal” together in an ultrasound:

“You will lie down on a table with your knees bent and feet in holders called stirrups. The health care provider will place a probe, called a transducer, into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel…The doctor can immediately see the picture on a nearby TV monitor.”

“Consent” means with permission. I am surprised, since a TV monitor is part of the procedure, that they haven’t yet mandated a live-stream into the legislative chamber – just to make sure no one is cheating them of their god-given right to invade another person’s body without her permission.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, a conservative Roman Catholic, who has never experienced a transvaginal probe, has explained that he will sign the ultrasound bill, although he is uncertain about the personhood bill. Does this mean he’s not sure if a mass of undifferentiated cells are people, but he is sure that women aren’t?

Not only are they fuzzy on those terms, but the Governor and Republican members of the Virginia State Legislature don’t understand what rape is. Maybe they should consult the FBI, which defines rape this way:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Or their own state’s rape statute:

“If any person has sexual intercourse with a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in sexual intercourse with any other person and such act is accomplished (i) against the complaining witness’s will, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person; or (ii) through the use of the complaining witness’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness; or (iii) with a child under age 13 as the victim, he or she shall be guilty of rape.”

Or maybe they just think women should “expect to be raped” if they live in Virginia and want abortions, just like in the military.

Republican legislators explicitly declined to vote for a proposed amendment that would have required women to sign a consent form. Carrie Brandstrom, who started the FaceBook page Stay out of MY UTERUS! Stop ANTI-Women Legislation, called it a “rape sonogram” earlier this week and she is right. That’s what it should be called.

As Andy Kopsa, writing in RHReality Check, put it, “The bottom line is pro-choice legislators in state houses around the country as well as physicians and women’s rights activists must start drawing the clear line between state forced transvaginal ultrasounds and rape.”

I know that the Republicans in the Virginia Legislature, and the people that support them, don’t want to rape good women. They know that unless a woman screams and fights, it’s not “real rape.” They want toprotect women from their own intrinsically poor decision making faculties and take away the access to birth control and abortions that turn them into craven sluts.

Can you imagine making it mandatory for any man needing medicine for erectile dysfunction to pay for and have a rectal exam and cardiac stress test? I mean, how ridiculous is that? No legislative body would ever pass an amendment making anal penetration with a probe mandatory for men who don’t want it.

Ha! What a joke! Except it isn’t.

It was a protest that no one took seriously. Virginia State Senator, Janet Howell, to whom I am currently erecting a small shrine in my office, attached the mandatory rectal exam and cardiac test to theses abortion bills. Needless to say, it did not pass. That’s because THAT is different and the legislators in question have no doubt about whattransrectal probes are. Just to be clear, I don’t want to make any transorifice probe mandatory, but there is no difference between these procedures except the gender of the people subjected to them.

Delegate David Englin, a Democrat who thinks women are equal before the law, had this to say:

“This bill will require many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions. This kind of government intrusion shocks the conscience and demonstrates the disturbing lengths Republican legislators will go to prevent women from controlling their own reproductive destiny.”

He proposed the failed amendment that would have required women to give their consent before the invasive procedure. These bills go beyond casual misogyny. They ignore and revoke women’s right to privacy and deny them their personal liberty, not to mention dignity. They are unconstitutional and will be challenged if signed into law.

How long will it take for women to have full and equal reproductive rights and control over their own bodies, free from conservative legislative interference?
By Soraya L. Chemaly | Sourced from Feminist Wire

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