Inmate Labor Used In Alabama Primary Election
1 year ago
TV images are searing reminder of disenfranchisement of African American felons.
CNN’s Dana Bash stirred Twitter election watchers Tuesday when she tweeted, “something u (sic) don’t see every day. Inmates will help bring ballots here in (Jefferson) county Alabama…”
Early evening video, pouring into the network’s Alabama and Mississippi presidential primary broadcast, showed two local jail inmates, one black and one white, seated on folding chairs and staring miserably into space. The two waited to assist county election officials with carrying bags of paper ballots and electronic memory cards into a vault, a short distance from their seats.
It almost looked like a reverse bank robbery. Both men were dressed in bright, orange-striped prison attire. And both looked less than pleased to have national TV cameras transmitting what some watchers characterized as a humiliating exercise.
CNN’s anchors and field reporters appeared too wrapped up in competing to be the first network to call Alabama for Rick Santorum, to pause and tell viewers that they were looking at a symbol of America’s disenfranchised class.
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Moreover, the images conjure up a stark reality in America’s record of voter disenfranchisement. While Bash confirmed the two inmates weren’t considered dangerous and were likely jailed for misdemeanors, Alabama is one of 11 states where ex-convicts might live the rest of their lives without the right to vote again.
Statistically, African American males know this reality all too well. Add them to the estimated millions of other minorities, senior citizens and young adults who could be turned away from polling places, if a spur in unfair voter ID laws isn’t abated.
The American Civil Liberties Union and The Sentencing Project estimates that more than 5 million felons are prohibited from casting ballots. Black men are disproportionately affected, as 1.4 million of them do not have voting rights, even after their release from federal, state or county lockup.