ACLU sues Alabama over felon disenfranchisement

The ACLU sued Alabama elections officials this week over an overly expansive policy disenfranchising felons. According to the New York Times:

Like virtually all states, Alabama restricts the rights of many felons to vote, but in Monday's suit the group contends the state is going beyond even its own laws. People convicted of nonviolent offenses like income tax evasion or forgery are at risk of being turned away by voter registrars in Alabama, the ACLU says.

Alabama bars felons from voting only if they've been convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude." According to the ACLU, the state legislature defined the phrase to refer to specific crimes: murder, rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, incest, sexual torture and nine other crimes mainly involving pornography and abuses against children. But the list was expanded by Alabama's attorney general Troy King to include about a dozen additional offenses, most of them nonviolent, and several including the sale of marijuana. In their lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. contends that the attorney general's list violates the Alabama Constitution, saying only the Legislature can decide what crimes fit the "moral turpitude" category.

According to the New York Times, voting rights groups are "especially watchful this year because under a 2002 federal law, states are now coordinating lists to find felons and people who have died or moved, allowing easy - rights groups say too easy - purging of voters." As the New York Times reported:

Elsewhere in the South, the voting rights group Project Vote has been expressing concern over what it sees as undue purging of voters in Louisiana, without notification, before this year's election.

A spokesman for Louisiana's secretary of state said that all voters found to have duplicate registrations were sent at least one warning letter and sometimes two, but that the last such actions were done some 13 months ago.

As Facing South has previously reported, felon disenfranchisement has had a huge impact on politics in the South, in fact taking millions of votes out of the political equation. This mass lock-out of a large number of blacks and the poor from the voting booth has had a direct impact on the balance of political power in the South, helping to swing election outcomes, giving Republicans victories by taking away potential minority Democratic votes.