Basic rights again trampled on by politics

Published 10:55 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

Principles set in place by our Founding Father have allowed the citizens of the United States to build the most powerful country in the world. The right to vote was one of those principles. Generally speaking, our country has always progressed by expanding that right, but some of today’s politicians appear ready to fly in the face of 221 years of history and become more selective with one of our most basic rights.

“A list of crimes compiled by the governor’s office and used to disqualify Alabama voters includes hundreds of felonies – such as animal cruelty and shoplifting – not previously considered serious enough to cost convicted criminals their voting rights,” the Associated Press reported.

State law allows that a conviction of crime of “moral turpitude” is sufficient reason to disallow someone from voting.

Many of the offenses are undeniably of moral turpitude, but some of the ones added to the list are ridiculous: attempted arson, breaking and entering a vehicle, attempted burglary, criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools, absentee balloting fraud, domestic violence, forgery, killing livestock illegally, leaving the scene of an accident with an injury and conspiring to set an illegal brush fire.

So, someone that conspires to set an illegal brush fire is considered by our state morally corrupt enough to promote him or her from voting. And domestic violence? After Charles Bishop’s display of political violence last year (he punched a fellow state senator), has he been banned from voting?

Let’s pretend for a moment that all these crimes really are of moral turpitude. Why should questionable morals disqualify someone from voting in the first place? Even a dog killer is an American citizen that has paid taxes like the rest of us.

There are laws for a reason, and any violation of our laws should carry a punishment. But that punishment should be for judges to decide, not politicians that have an obvious stake in whether a group of people is allowed to vote.

Notice the list of crimes was compiled by the office of our Republican governor, Bob Riley. Expanding the number of crimes used to disqualify voters will decrease the influence of poor and/or minority residents in upcoming elections. Rest assured that bloc would have favored the Democrats.

We have here another petty political ploy, the kind that might make our Founding Fathers – who notably omitted any mention of political parties from the Constitution – roll over in their graves. But what do they know, anyway?

– Stephen Dawkins is the sports editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at