by Alton H. Maddox, Jr.
If the Freedom Party is able to secure 15,000 valid signatures to secure ballot status and is, afterwards, able to secure 50,000 votes to enjoy the authority to nominate state-wide officeholders, the Freedom Party will have the authority to become a political party led by historically-oppressed persons.
An intermediate step is voter registration. The future of the Freedom Party will depend on the voter registration and political education of young people. During World War II, only Georgia lowered the voting age to eighteen year olds. The Twenty-sixth Amendment would later lower the voting age to eighteen-year olds.
Universal suffrage is not permitted in the United States. Pauper laws were enacted in some locales to disenfranchise the poor. In New York, parolees are also unable to vote. Only Maine, Massachusetts, Utah and Vermont lack a universal, disenfranchisement law.
A felon and a parolee are two different classifications. A parolee is part of the criminal justice system. A felon is a byproduct of the criminal justice system. In New York, over eighty percent of all parolees are Blacks or Latinos even though these groups constitute about forty percent of the state’s population.
A parolee has not repaid his debt to society. On the other hand, a felon in New York has repaid his debt, in full, to society. Nonetheless, New York refuses to restore to felons full civil rights. Felons do enjoy limited voting rights, however. A felon may enter a polling booth but is forbidden from participating in either a petit jury or a grand jury.
An encounter, recently, with a young man in Albany is typical. He was under the mistaken belief that a felon is unable to vote in New York. When he was told that his belief was mistaken, he asked if a voter registration card would give him an immediate job.
He was told that a voter registration card was not an immediate guarantee of employment. Thus, he was uninterested in voting. It may have been selfishness that landed him in prison in the first place. It was of no concern to him that Blacks had been targeted for disenfranchisement. He was for self.
It was a political decision to disenfranchise felons in New York. Most of the affected felons are either Black or Latino. It will also take a political decision to acknowledge the repayment of the debt. This will not come until Blacks and Latinos form a political party and put the disenfranchisement of Blacks and Latinos on the political agenda. The Democratic Party will not do it.
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hunter v. Underwood that Alabama’s criminal disenfranchisement law was unconstitutional since it intentionally discriminated against Blacks. The criminal justice system provides an oasis for discrimination. For example, prosecutorial discretion is an oasis in the criminal justice system.
Although New York’s criminal disenfranchisement law does indeed discriminate against Blacks and Latinos, a successful plaintiff must show discriminatory intent. Alabama’s law was ruled, facially, unconstitutional. This law made no apologies for discriminating against Blacks. Mississippi amended its criminal disenfranchisement law to shield its discriminatory intent.
No judicial system will readily find that New York uses its criminal disenfranchisement laws to discriminate against Blacks and Latinos because the enforcement of its laws is uneven. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that statistics is insufficient to prove intent.
The major civil rights legislation was passed in 1964 and 1965 after the Black vote played a key role in electing John F. Kennedy as president of the United States. The 1960 presidential election, the civil rights movement and urban rebellions gave rise to Blacks securing voting rights. It will take another movement to secure political rights. The Freedom Party is a step in the right direction.
The deadline for signatures is two weeks. In terms of a timetable, at least 15 congressional districts must be nailed down on or before August 17. In addition to securing 6 additional congressional districts for the Freedom Party, supporters must run up the numbers in the most populous congressional districts between August 8 and August 17.
Gov. Mario Cuomo used monies earmarked to build housing for the poor to expand the prison-industrial complex in New York. He built more prisons than all other previous governors. He also opposed restoring full civil rights to Black and Latino felons after they had repaid their debt to society. Today, Andrew Cuomo expects Blacks and Latinos to endorse their own oppression.
A person with a felony conviction can be a part of a movement to abolish criminal disenfranchisement laws in New York. This person can not only vote immediately but also can carry petitions for the Freedom Party. This person must immediately go to the local Board of Elections and personally submit a voter registration card. This card is available at this office. After submitting this card personally, the person must demand a stamped receipt from the local Board of Elections.
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Sis. Sarah Russell 7189-834-9034
Too honest for the White Press and too black for much of today’s Black Press; bullet columnist Alton Maddox upsets the same people and status quo as he did as an uncompromising Defense Attorney, but he has yet to lie about anything. Contact him at c/o UAM P.O. BOX 35 BRONX, NY 10471