Clinton Proposes Election Holiday and Ex-Felon Voting

Sen. Clinton pushes for voting holiday (SPI)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible White House candidate in 2008, joined 2004 nominee John Kerry and other Democrats Thursday in urging that Election Day be made a federal holiday to encourage voting. She also pushed for legislation that would allow all ex-felons to vote.

Standing with Massachusetts Sen. Kerry and other Democrats who had alleged voting irregularities in the 2004 contest, Clinton said, “Once again we had a federal election that demonstrates we have a long way to go.”

[…]

In addition to creating a federal holiday for voting, the bill would:

-Require paper receipts for votes.

-Authorize $500 million to help states make the changes in voting systems and equipment.

-Allow ex-felons to vote. Currently an estimated 4.7 million Americans are barred from voting because of their criminal records.

-Require adoption of the changes in time for the 2006 election.

Requiring a paper record for voting and federalizing the procedures involved are reasonable reforms given the recent spotlight on the irregularities inherent in any massive system. I suspect they will do little to actually solve the problems–they may simply be unsolvable–but they may go a long way to restoring confidence in the process. Making the changes in time for the 2006 election, which would presumably include the primaries lest we confuse voters by shifting technologies mid-cycle, strikes me as unfeasible. One would think it all doable in time for the 2008 cycle, though.

The other two proposals are more problematic. I have no huge philosophical objection to a federal holiday for election day but it is very much a transparent effort to create an advantage for the Democratic Party at taxpayer expense. The only workers more-or-less guaranteed to get federal holidays off are federal employees, a traditional Democrat supplicant block. Further, federal employees already tend to be given the ability to go vote during the workday, so this would really just ensure that they’re able to take a paid holiday to help Democrats get out the vote. If the idea is simply ensure people have time to vote, increasing the ability for absentee voting (which has its own set of problems) or moving election day to a Saturday makes more sense.

Automatically restoring the franchise to ex-felons would be another boon to the Democrats. Still, it’s not entirely clear to me what the rationale is for denying them the right to vote, presuming they’ve completed all requirements of their punishment, including any probationary period. If they’re out in public and free to come and go as they please, their ability to vote is the least of my worries. There is also the whole “taxation without representation” argument to be made.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Congress, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. LJD says:

    What’s an ex-felon? Some one convicted of a felony crime, is a felon. The term doesn’t differentiate pot growers from child rapists.

    Does this group include those currently incarcerated who wish to vote by absentee ballot? After all, they’re paying their debt to society, right? You mention taxation without representation. I can’t wait to hear about cruel and unusual punishment.

  2. Scott_T says:

    California worker laws allows upto 2 hours of time off before or after work (without losss of pay), its printed clearly on the worker laws that every employer must post for their workers to be aware of.

    Of course if you are an hourly employee, you’ll get no pay for those hours, but if you are salaried, you won’t forfeit anything.

  3. McGehee says:

    LJD, considering the typical election turnout in all but the most recent election cycles, I hardly think that keeping felons and ex-felons (and I have no doubt you know the difference) from voting can seriously be dubbed “cruel and unusual punishment.” I think they’d be more likely to consider compulsory voting to fall under that definition.

  4. John says:

    My experience with Florida’s “early voting” was excellent. With polling places open, for several weeks before elections day including Saturdays (at least in part), there is no insuperable obstacle to voting–by anyone.

    Florida is one of the numerous states which prohibit felons (ex- or current) from voting, though ex-felons can petition to have their voting rights restored. That, in principal, is fine with me. The Constitutions says each state sets up its own rules about who votes.

    But bureaucratic ineptitude in keeping records straight does result in unfairness and the improper restriction of voting rights. If the bureaucracy can be fixed, then loss of franchise is not unreasonable or unfair. If the bureaucracy continues to fumble, maybe the best result could be obtained by voiding those laws. But I still want it done on a state-by-state basis, not through federal dictat.

  5. LJD says:

    “I think they’d be more likely to consider compulsory voting to fall under that definition.”

    Depends on which box they check.

  6. oldtom says:

    How about an ammendment to the bill requiring proof of citizenship?

  7. Beldar says:

    Disability from voting rights is an ancient consequence of a felony conviction — indeed, it’s a consequence that (like the possibility of imprisonment for a year or more) has historically distinguished felonies from misdemeanors.

    Many states have provisions to allow for restoration of voting rights on a case-by-case basis; others don’t deny felons voting rights at all, once they’ve completed their sentences and probationary periods.

    What good reason is there for taking this out of state government hands? (Unless by “good reason” you mean “It will create more votes for Democrats,” which I presume is Sen. Clinton’s rationale.)

  8. Beldar says:

    And by the way, unless one has been pardoned or his conviction expunged, one does not become an “ex-felon” by virtue of finishing one’s sentence, any more than one becomes an “ex-murderer.”

  9. Iceman_1955 says:

    Yet another Federal holiday??
    Who gets these holidays off anyway? Federal employees, students, banks, Post Office.
    Now you are asking employers to pay the price yet again. An employer should demand proof that the person actually voted. If you cant make it to the polls because of your job I have 2 words VOTE ABSENTEE