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GovTrack Insider reports: A long-stand­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al de­bate, dat­ing to at least the 1960s in its cur­rent form, resur­faced Tues­day af­ter­noon in the House Ju­di­cia­ry Com­mit­tee’s Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civil Rights and Civil Lib­er­ties. Do states’ rights su­per­sede the im­per­a­tive for sub­stan­tive equal pro­tec­tion under the law? Fol­low­ing the Civil Rights move­ment, it has been gen­er­al­ly ac­cept­ed that civil rights are more im­por­tant in all but con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist cir­cles. But when ap­plied to laws deny­ing the vote to ex-of­fend­ers, the issue has not been so sim­ple.

The back­drop for this de­bate was a new bill in­tro­duced by Ju­di­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. John Cony­ers, H.R. 3335: Democ­ra­cy Restora­tion Act of 2009 (“to se­cure the Fed­er­al vot­ing rights of per­sons who have been re­leased from in­car­cer­a­tion”). Since Congress is un­der­stood to have gen­er­al ju­ris­dic­tion to be able to set the guide­lines for the elec­tion of fed­er­al can­di­dates, it nat­u­ral­ly can pre­vent states from plac­ing ob­sta­cles to vot­ing de­signed to dis­en­fran­chise a par­tic­u­lar racial, eth­nic, or eco­nom­ic group.

The ef­fect of state laws deny­ing vot­ing rights to ex-felons is dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly harm­ful to African-Amer­i­cans, said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA3). Scott, a co-spon­sor of the bill, chaired the sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing (in the place of long­time New York City Rep. Jer­rold Nadler (D-NY8), who did not at­tend for rea­sons not open­ly ev­i­dent). Scott added that such ef­fects are so detri­men­tal as to ef­fec­tive­ly dis­en­fran­chise en­tire African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. In­deed, ac­cord­ing to Scott, the amount of African-Amer­i­cans with­out the right to vote is seven times the av­er­age for Cau­casians. -- Read the whole article --> H.R. 3335 addresses one person one ... - GovTrack Insider

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