Maybe you think that is alright – that it is okay to remove the human right to vote from someone who has broken some law. Most of the world says not and for once I agree with the majority. It's not that I am bothered much by the right of thugs, vandals, drug peddlers or sex offenders but I am concerned by the ease with which a man (or woman) can be stripped of their civil rights by application of a political law, or the political application of an otherwise good law.
If all it takes to remove some troublesome voters is to invent a law that criminalises them, our democracies can turn too easily into farces. In case you think this is all theoretical, may I remind you that antimisandry.com has already reported on the ongoing intentions by some powerful global groups to outlaw anyone who does not agree with feminism (without even specifying exactly what feminism is, this week).
Roderick Kemp, who has helped to collect thousands of signatures that would restore voting rights for men. CREDIT: Asad Faruqi/Surya Productions
In the USA, there are over 6 million citizens - most of them men - who are disenfranchised. Some of these men have lost the vote as a result of losing their job, and being incarcerated for not being able to pay an unfaithful ex-wife her alimony. Others can not vote because they were imprisoned for a crime when DNA evidence has since revealed their innocence.
In 1986, 29 year old Roderick Kemp was arrested for cocaine possession. After violating the final portion of his parole by missing community service commitments, he served a few months in county jail.
Serving time, he says, is what decided him to put his recreational drug abuse behind him and move on with life. He went on to become a father of three, a grandfather of two, and to have successful careers in business and real estate. He also found an interest in politics. The election of the first black president and the role political organizing played are both historic and emotional for Kemp, a calm and soft-spoken man, now in his 60s. He naturally carried on voting, just as he always had.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a letter arrived. Kemp was stunned. “This must be a mistake,” he thought. It wasn’t.
The letter stated “You have been convicted of a felony and your civil rights permitting you to vote have not been restored at this time.”Kemp lives in Florida, where 27% of the country's estimated 6.1 million disenfranchised live, because Florida is among the toughest States to remove this civil right and among the toughest to forgive.
More than one in five African Americans is disenfranchised in Florida and among all disenfranchised throughout the country, it is estimated that over 70% of them are men.
Any other year, Election Day holds a sense of pride for Kemp. This year, he will be absent from the polls. “I don’t have a voice. I’m like an anonymous person,” he said.
Some hope for Kemp is in the activism of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition which has collected 68,000 signatures for a ballot initiative that would rewrite voter restoration laws. The proposed constitutional amendment would automatically restore civil rights for nonviolent felons after they have completed their sentences.
For the rest of the men in the USA, as with those in the UK and elsewhere, even though they have served their time, many remain treated as outlaws regardless of what put them in prison, or how they have turned their life about since.