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In Baltimore Ex-Felons Rock the Vote

Not sure there are enough ex-felons in the City of Baltimore to change the traditional political fault lines, but it at least is a beginning in restoring the rights to a group of folks who may be able to build the foundations of a new life after incarceration.

Tearing another piece of that New Jim Crow down so beloved by Republicans as a means to suppress voters of color.

In Baltimore, ex-felons cherish newfound right to vote

On the November night in 2008 when the nation elected its first black president, wild celebrations broke out in west Baltimore. But when Perry Hopkins jumped up from the steps of the Chinese takeout where he was sitting and tried to join the party, he was quickly put in his place.

“Somebody looked at me and said: You got a record, you can’t vote. You ain’t got nothing to do with this, you can’t claim this,” Hopkins recalled. “And it hurt.”

A wiry, intense 54-year-old, Hopkins has been barred from voting thanks to an extensive criminal history that he attributes to a past addiction problem. “I’ve done five years three times, and four years once, so I’ve got roughly 20 years on the installment plan,” he said. “I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.”

Of being disenfranchised, Hopkins said: “I felt like my hands were tied behind my back and I was being beaten.”

Now that feeling is gone. On Thursday, Hopkins cast his first votes ever in Maryland’s presidential and mayoral primaries. (He won’t say for whom he voted.) And as an organizer for Communities United, a local community group, he rounded up scores of his neighbors — many of them also former felons — and drove them in a van to the polls, too. “Hey, come vote!” Hopkins was shouting to anyone who would listen Thursday as he stood at a busy intersection, loading up another van with people.

In February, prodded by a grassroots campaign by Communities United and other voting rights and civil rights groups, Maryland restored voting rights to people with felony convictions as soon as they’re released from prison — re-enfranchising an estimated 40,000 predominantly African-American Marylanders. Previously, they’d had to wait until they had completed probation or parole. Democratic lawmakers overrode a veto by Maryland’s Republican governor to push the measure into law. Communities United says it’s registered about 1300 new voters since the law passed.

The move was perhaps the biggest victory yet for a nationwide movement to scrap or weaken felon disenfranchisement laws, which shut nearly 6 million Americans, disproportionately non-white, out of the political process.

Reginald Smith, who was in prison for 14 years after voting at an early voting site for the first time “in a long time.”

On Friday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffeannounced an executive order that re-enfranchises more than 200,000 felons, a move that could boost Democrats in the crucial swing state this November. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin last week signed a law that softens that state’s felon voting ban. And a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court, expected imminently, could dramatically reduce the number of crimes that lead to disenfranchisement there.

In Maryland, opponents of the change argued that it makes sense to require former felons to complete their full sentence — meaning probation or parole — before getting their rights back. But several of the newly re-enfranchised who Hopkins ferried to the polls Thursday said emphatically that the right to vote was itself a powerful spur toward reintegrating back into society.

“Not being able to vote was hindering me from actually being considered as a full citizen, and it was hindering my whole rehabilitation process,” said Reginald Smith, moments after voting for the first time in decades. “Because I was still being punished for something that I already served time for.”

“Being able to vote, it just makes me feel that much more positive about myself,” said Robert Mackin, 54, shortly before he cast the first ballot of his life. (Who did Mackin plan to vote for? “I sure know it ain’t gonna be no Trump.”)…Read the Rest Here…

 

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Tennessee Dems Reject The Race Card, Republicans Reject Religious Bigotry

Blogged a few weeks ago about Ex Memphis Mayor Willie Henreton’s attempt to knock off incumbent Steve Cohen in a majority black district – Ex Mayor Herenton Plays the Race Card in Tennessee based largely on race.

Tennesse Democrats weren’t buying, and handed Steve Cohen a victory yesterday in a landslide.

Tenn. Dems Reject Ex-Mayor’s Race-Based Campaign

Congressman Steve Cohen Seen Here With The Prez

The former longtime mayor of Memphis, who unabashedly campaigned for voters to send him to Congress because he is black, was overwhelmingly defeated by the white incumbent in Thursday’s Democratic primary…

Willie Herenton, Memphis’ first black elected mayor, pushed the race angle throughout his campaign for the 9th District House seat, saying he’s more representative of majority-black Memphis than U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, who is white and Jewish. Herenton had said he wanted to diversify Tennessee’s all-white, 11-member congressional delegation. But with 78 percent of precincts reporting, Cohen had 54,897 votes, or 79 percent, to Herenton’s 14,254 or 21 percent.

Cohen said his victory sends a message that “Memphis is a city on the move and not a city of the past.”

Herenton urged his supporters to back Cohen. Before Thursday, the 70-year-old Herenton had never lost a political race and served 4½ terms as mayor before retiring under the cloud of a federal corruption investigation, which now appears to be over. Cohen, a two-term congressman, countered Herenton’s tactics with endorsements from President Barack Obama and Harold Ford Sr., the first black elected to the seat and senior member of a powerful political family.

“I’m the kind of guy that was always the winner. For whatever reason, it was not part of God’s master plan,” Herenton said.

Democrats have held the seat for more than three decades and Cohen will be the heavy favorite to win in November.

In other election news, apparently internet favorite Basil Marceaux, was not able to overcome… a lot of things… as Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam swept the crowded Republican field –

Mayor and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Haslam at a Montgomery County, TN Republican Meet and Greet

Also Thursday, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam won Tennessee’s Republican gubernatorial nomination after a contentious and expensive 19-month campaign. Haslam, the dominant fundraiser of the race, triumphed over U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. With 2 percent of precincts reporting, Haslam had 115,705 votes, or 52 percent, to Wamp’s 59,922 votes, or 27 percent. Ramsey had 43,308 votes, or 20 percent.

State Senate Speaker and Lt Governor Ron Ramsey, whose pronouncement that the Constitutional Guarantee of Religious Freedom doesn’t apply to Muslims roiled the political atmosphere, came in 3rd.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2010 in News

 

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More Hanky-Panky In South Carolina Primaries

S.C. lawmaker calls for investigations of Democratic primary, 2 other races

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) called for federal and state investigations into alleged campaign irregularities in South Carolina after an unemployed Army veteran who lives with his parents won a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate there.

Alvin M. Greene, who has an outstanding felony obscenity charge pending, “was someone’s plant,” Clyburn said Thursday.

Clyburn added that Greene was one of three individuals, all African American, whose congressional campaigns were designed to upend the Democratic primary process in the Palmetto State. The lawmaker also raised questions about the campaigns of Gregory A. Brown, who ran a vigorous but unsuccessful challenge against Clyburn in the 6th Congressional District, and Benjamin Frasier Jr., a perennial candidate who surprised observers by beating retired Air Force Reserve Col. Robert Burton in the 1st District.

The Federal Elections Commission has no public record of any of the three filing quarterly reports revealing their funding sources or campaign outlays. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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