The state of Georgia has become a key battleground for black voting rights.
In 2018, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, the nation’s first-ever major-party African-American woman nominee for governor, narrowly lost to Secretary of State Brian Kemp after thousands of black voters saw their absentee ballots thrown out, polling places consolidated, and voting machines warehoused in their precincts. These incidents led to a sharp outcry and questions of legitimacy, because Kemp was administering the same election he was running in. Nonetheless, the election was extremely close — a margin of just 50,000 votes decided the outcome in a state of over 10 million people.
Now, ahead of the 2020 election, The Daily Beast has published an analysis on another racially discriminatory law that could play a substantial role in the outcome: “moral turpitude” laws.
In some Southern states, Georgia included, felonies of “moral turpitude” can disqualify you from voting. The problem is that “moral turpitude” is not defined anywhere in Georgia’s constitution or laws, meaning that just about anyone with a felony conviction can be excluded if state officials want — and this applies disproportionately to people of color.
Ex-convicts regain their rights after completing their sentences, but remain ineligible while on probation or parole, which leaves some 250,000 people, or 3 percent of the entire voting-age population, disenfranchised — five times the margin with which Kemp carried the gubernatorial election in 2018. 58 percent of these disenfranchised ex-convicts are African-American.
Georgia is not the only state where moral turpitude laws have been used to deny black voters the franchise. In Alabama, moral turpitude used to be so ill-defined that black people were denied the vote for things as minor as cashing bad checks — and such voters were disenfranchised for life, even after completing their sentences. A Supreme Court decision in 1985, triggered ironically enough when the state tried to disenfranchise a white man, forced Alabama to restrict moral turpitude to felonies only.
In 2017, the state further revised its constitution to name only a specific list of felonies that constitute moral turpitude — and even then, the state carefully chose crimes that black people are disproportionately convicted for, like burglary and robbery, while leaving out crimes like public corruption and embezzlement that are more closely associated with affluent white offenders.
‘It’s really shameful’: Speaker Pelosi blasts US Supreme Court for Wisconsin decision ‘undermining our democracy’
'5-4 Surprise, Surprise'
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi blasted the U.S. Supreme Court Monday night, just hours after conservative justices in a 5-4 decision not only blocked the governor of Wisconsin from halting his state's election tomorrow, but changed a lower court's decision and gave voters less time to return absentee ballots.
The Speaker, apparently appearing from her San Francisco home on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," berated the right wing majority justices, who she says are now "undermining our democracy" by not allowing the election to be postponed until June.
It’s time for Democrats to start playing hard ball against the GOP’s threat to the 2020 election
Democracy is on the line, and the Democratic Party must stand up for its namesake.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will be called to vote in one of the most disgraceful and flat-out dangerous electoral shams this country has seen in recent history. Despite the efforts of the Democratic governor to delay the vote and a federal court to extend the deadline for turning in absentee ballots — many of which may not arrive at voters’ homes by election day — Wisconsin residents will be expected to case their ballots Tuesday amid a pandemic or forever hold their peace. Howls about the injustice of asking people to vote in person during such a perilous time, and while the state is under a stay-at-home order, have gone unheeded by the Republican state legislature, the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court, or the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court.
Justice Ginsburg sends out dire warning about the new Supreme Court ruling in Wisconsin election case
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a disturbing dissent on Monday as the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in Tuesday’s upcoming Wisconsin election with a move she warned could result in “massive disenfranchisement.”
The election, which includes the Democratic presidential primary, a Wisconsin Supreme Court race, and a raft of other local campaigns, has become embroiled in controversy as observers warn the coronavirus pandemic threatens the safety and integrity of the election. While Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has pushed to delay the election until June in light of the pandemic, the Republican-dominated legislature has refused to act, apparently believing the chaos caused by the crisis will depress turnout and benefit the GOP.