How outrageous is this? Let me count the ways.
1. Felony disenfranchisement in the first place is a despicable, irrational policy that is part and parcel of Jim Crow. If felony disenfranchisement did not exist, this conviction would not have been possible.
2. It's become customary in this day and age for people to have to sign things without reading or understanding them first. So to find that this woman knowingly cast an illegal provisional ballot just because she signed a form affidavit saying she had completed her sentence when she was on work release, a crime punishable up to 20 years in prison, is unduly harsh.
3. In the event she was given a 5-year sentence, which seems wholly out of proportion to the offense. This was not a crime of moral turpitude, but a technical regulatory violation. What legitimate societal interest is really served by incarcerating this woman for five freaking years?
4. Of course, the true purpose behind the harsh sentence is obvious: it sends a message to anyone with a criminal record that they better be damn sure their voting rights are fully restored because look what can happen. This will undoubtedly have a massive chilling effect, especially among African-American voters.
5. Not to mention the entire purpose of a provisional ballot is to allow a person whose voting registration is in question to cast a ballot, and then figure out later whether it counts or not.
6. Another distinguishing feature of voter fraud is its rarity; hardly anyone ever commits voter fraud but certainly this conviction will be held up as evidence that a scourge of illegal voting is sweeping the nation, and that voter ID laws and other onerous deterrents are needed to prevent it--when frankly what we ought to do is just get rid of felony disenfranchisement laws.
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