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How can a convicted felon be elected?

October 28th, 2008 (08:54 am)

current mood: annoyed

Senator Ted Stevens has been convicted on seven felony counts.

And he's still a candidate for reelection.

How does that work? A convicted felon generally isn't allowed to vote in elections; how can he vote in the Senate?

(Edit: I understand how it works legally; I just think the law is wrong. If felons can't be trusted to vote, then they can't be trusted to be legislators. Personally, I think it should be the other way around: felons should retain the vote, and Congress should have no right to expel members without an impeachment hearing.)


Posted by: dsrtao (dsrtao)
Posted at: October 28th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)

Felons can vote if the state allows it.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 28th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Not in Alaska

But Alaska doesn't. From their "Division of Election" site:

I was convicted of a felony, but have served my time and am on probation. Can I register to vote?

No. A convicted felon may not register to vote unless unconditionally discharged from custody. When you are no longer on probation, a copy of your discharge papers will allow you to register.

Unless his sentencing hearing goes stupidly well for him, he won't be eligible to vote next Tuesday.

Posted by: robertdfeinman (robertdfeinman)
Posted at: October 28th, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC)

Both the senate and house set their own rules for who they will seat. Stevens could win the election, then be refused a seat and Palin would get to pick his replacement.

It's not clear (to me) when a new election would be scheduled to complete the term.

Posted by: goldsquare (goldsquare)
Posted at: October 28th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)

It is a matter of context. A convicted felon (who has been sentenced, and served at least a year) can lose their right to vote in elections that are run by the states.

But that does not mean they can't vote for the President of their social club, or vote on a Board of Directors. They do not lose all rights to ever vote in all ways. Just in specific elections.

The Senate and House do not prevent felons from running for seats, or winning seats, or holding those seats after winning them. This can be a good thing: imagine if an internecine battle between the Judicial and Legislative branches escalated to the point where all members of the Legislature became felons for petty offenses.

The race for the Senate seat has been close, and the incumbent has long been a step behind. In this case, I don't think that Steven's can win.

If he did win, he'd be stripped of a LOT of his status: loss of seniority and chairmanships (if any: he's not in the majority party right now). And, I suspect, the pressure to resign or be removed would be quite high, especially in the next Congress.

More interesting is to game-play this out depending upon the election. If McCain/Palin are in the Presidency, one presumes that these "anti-corruption mavricks" would work for Steven's removal. (Palin, despite having once supported him, did so because it was where her bread was being buttered. She does not like him, and seems to like having the upper hand.) Her current lieutenant governor would likely be the governor, and I think he'd get to appoint a (likely Republican) replacement.

If Obama/Biden are in the chairs, it will be much the same in terms of vote, and very few Republicans would have to cross over to vote Stevens out. I suspect they would NOT like to be on record as voting to keep him in.

It would be interesting to see if the Legislature of Alaska will let Palin make the replacement appointment, or if they would vote themselves the power to appoint. I think that her national exposure had reduced her popularity in the state, a long way.

Posted by: Chris (tangerinpenguin)
Posted at: October 28th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)

CQPolitics has an FAQ on the conviction that talks about what happens, and on what probable timeline. In sum: he can serve, despite being a felon. But he loses any committee chair or ranking Republican posts (which has pretty much already happened) and his fellow Senators can vote (by 2/3) to expell him.

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