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Oops: GOP governor pays felons to get out the vote

By John Byrne
Monday, January 25, 2010 9:27 EDT
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Republicans, who have long fought restoring felons as citizens who can vote, are now embroiled in a felon scandal of their own.

On Sunday, the Dallas Morning News revealed that GOP Gov. Rick Perry had signed up ex-felons as part of a Republican get-out-the-vote effort in Texas. Perry’s campaign was unshaken by the report.

“People in life make mistakes,” said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “It doesn’t mean they can’t get a second chance and work hard. That’s what these people are doing. They are out there trying to change their lives and make a difference.”

“It’s working well,” Miner added. “We have a lot of people out there working hard on behalf of the governor. We’ve always said that this is going to be the largest grass-roots organization this state has ever seen.”

Among those on Perry’s rolls?

Gema Gonzalez of El Paso was convicted in 2004 of felony possession of between 5 and 50 pounds of marijuana, public records show. Gonzalez also has a misdemeanor assault charge on her record. She earned $13,440 to recruit voters over the last six months.

Reached by phone, Gonzalez said: “I can’t make a comment about it, but I have a number in Austin for you to call if you’d like.”

Britany Wiggins of Abilene, charged with drunken driving in 2004 and sentenced to a year of probation, was paid $3,240 for her grass-roots work. On Facebook, she lists herself as an Obama fan. She could not be reached for comment.

And Joshua Furrh of Fort Worth, convicted of possession of a controlled substance and sentence to three years probation in 2007, was paid $480 by the Perry campaign.

“He’s going to make a great governor, again,” Furrh said.

Republican pundits have long bemoaned felon voting rights, arguing that those who have maligned society’s mores should also lose their right to vote. In 2005, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin argued that felons may have put Democratic governor Christine Gregoire over the top in the Washington state gubernatorial race.

“Bottom line: if felons had been prohibited from voting last fall, as the law requires, Rossi almost certainly would be governor today,” Malkin wrote.

An “exhaustive” Seattle Times review ultimately disproved the claim.

But in the same blog post, Malkin cited an editorial by a conservative editorialist claiming that felons were disproportionately Democratic voters.

“In 2000 an estimated 10,000 felons voted illegally in Florida. Where their voter registration was checked, 85 percent of these convicted felons were registered as Democrats.”

So claimed the conservative writer Lowell Ponte in 2004, without citing facts.

“Ask yourself: how would our politics change if felons everywhere regained the vote?” the Front Page magazine author continued. “What would it mean if your lawmakers pandered and accommodated his policies to win the lawbreaker vote – the way former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (and doubtless his former Lt. Governor John F. Kerry) campaigned inside prisons, where thousands of inmates are also voters. Do you want your vote cancelled out by the Leftist vote of a felon who has been gerrymandered into your voter list?”

“If you debate such an advocate, you will hear the argument that felons freed from prisons on parole or after serving their term ‘have paid their debt to society and deserve to have their rights restored,’” he added. “Ask the Leftist making this argument if he likewise favors restoring the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that is now denied convicted felons in most states. You will be told: ‘Oh, no, that’s different. We can’t have a person with a history of violence or criminal behavior allowed to buy a gun!’ (This liberal, of course, also wants to outlaw your right to buy a gun.)”

 
 
 
 
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