Courting the Criminal Vote
Clearly unnerved by the narrow margin of victory that imaginary votes, duplicate votes, and suppressed votes gained them in the 2004 Washington State gubernatorial election, some on the left are now paving the way for the participation of another reliable Democratic Party voting block – the criminal vote. Nationally, Democrats from Hillary Clinton to Jesse Jackson have advocated restoration of felons’ voting rights, knowing full well that the benefit will accrue to their political ambitions.
In 2004, at least 544 felons were identified as having cast votes illegally in the governor’s race. If we assume that Washington’s felons’ voting patterns resemble those seen in other states, then this was more than enough to provide Christine Gregoire’s margin of victory, which officially stands at 129 votes,. In the 2004 Florida election, between 5,000 and 10,000 felons illegally cast votes and went for the Democrats at an 85% rate. This is about what is seen nationwide. It’s no wonder that Ms. Clinton has made the criminal vote such a legislative priority. They’re her natural constituency. Not even teachers’ unions are so loyal.
Late last month, the ACLU won a court case that restored voting privileges to thousands of Washington state felons. Current law permits felons to have their voting privileges restored only after they have completed the terms of their sentences, including community service, probation, court fines and fees. King County Superior Court judge Michael Spearman ordained that voting rights should not be based upon the ability to pay and restored voting privileges for all who had served their time in the jug, but had not yet settled up on their fines.
Governor Gregoire publicly expressed her approval of the judge’s ruling in solemn terms, but in private was undoubtedly celebrating the judgment with a lot of fist-pumping and high-fives with her closest political allies.
While graciously allowing that felons should not vote while in prison, she did not approve of withholding the right to vote until the entire debt to society is paid: "[O]nce they have served their time, withholding certain rights due to fines becomes a virtual debtors' prison."
Democrats often rely upon the courts to achieve those ends that they lack the courage to champion either democratically or legislatively. You don’t suppose that they fear being held accountable for such views by the voters, do you?
As Attorney General, Gregoire used the court to subvert the clear intention of a voter-approved initiative that banned the use of union dues for partisan political purposes. She did this so that the Washington Education Association could continue to funnel its members’ forcibly extracted dues into Democratic campaign coffers. The union undoubtedly repaid that debt by purchasing far more than 129 votes that gained Gregoire her current job. Her history shows that she is not one to allow her insatiable political ambitions to be impeded by election laws.
It’s not surprising that Democrats would seek to incorporate new victims groups into their coalition of the aggrieved. The Democrats’ declining ability to attract mainstream voters to their banner has certainly contributed to their electoral decline over the past couple of decades. As their activist base has swung further and further toward the extreme left, the party has had to abandon the ideological center to keep money flowing in from the passionate extremists. Every day “Reagan Democrats” find themselves ideologically abandoned by a party that embraces Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink and MoveOn.org more tightly than the working man.
This has inspired the Democrats to increase their reliance upon, what I shall delicately refer to as, “fringe voters.” This was most obviously manifested in the 1996 election when the Clinton/Gore administration accelerated the citizenship applications of hundreds of thousands of immigrants so that they could quickly be registered as Democrats in time to ward off the Bob Dole juggernaut that threatened their second term. Many of these voters should not have qualified for citizenship based upon criminal records, among other things.
Gregoire’s successor as Attorney General, Rob McKenna and Secretary of State, Sam Reed, have promised to appeal this decision. Certainly states should have the authority to determine when a debt to society is paid. And if Democrats really want the felons’ vote, they should say so and pursue that goal in the daylight, where the law-abiding voters can see it happening and pass their own judgment.