Alabama, Felons, Moral Turpitude, And Voting

I have not found a copy of the opinion yet, but the news report is that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance, Jr. has ruled that all felons in Alabama get to vote until the legislature defines “moral turpitude.”

So far as I can tell, the problem was that the state constitution (Article VIII, Section (b)) says:

No person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, or who is mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil and political rights or removal of disability.

But the legislature has never defined “moral turpitude.” That left people like the Secretary of State and the Attorney General to guess at the meaning. The result was the S-o-S saying that every crime is a crime of moral turpitude.

The judge resolved the problem, according to the reports, by ruling that voting is way too important to leave the qualifications up to the whims of individual officials. The legislature needs to act.

The short term result of the opinion is almost nothing. The AG’s office will appeal, and the decision will be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal. The appellate process will take a couple of years. So no-one is going to vote this fall who was not able to vote prior to the decision.

As for the long term results, assuming the decision survives an appeal, that depends on how the legislature acts. I hope they get rid of the restriction all together. I am all for appropriately penalizing criminals. But I also want to make it as easy as possible for them to fully re-join society after the penalty is finished. That is how to reduce recidivism.  

I think, though, that Dan is correct to fear what the legislature will do. Eager to gain votes by being tough on crime, the legislature will give us something like the original version of Article VIII:

The following persons shall be disqualified both from registering, and from voting, namely:

All idiots and insane persons; those who shall by reason of conviction of crime be disqualified from voting at the time of the ratification of this Constitution; those who shall be convicted of treason, murder, arson, embezzlement, malfeasance in office, larceny, receiving stolen property, obtaining property or money under false pretenses, perjury, subornation of perjury, robbery, assault with intent to rob, burglary, forgery, bribery, assault and battery on the wife, bigamy, living in adultery, sodomy, incest, rape, miscegenation, crime against nature, or any crime punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, or of any infamous crime or crime involving moral turpitude; also, any person who shall be convicted as a vagrant or tramp, or of selling or offering to sell his vote or the vote of another, or of buying or offering to buy the vote of another, or of making or offering to make a false return in any election by the people or in any primary election to procure the nomination or election of any person to any office, or of suborning any witness or registrar to secure the registration of any person as an elector.

“All idiots and insane persons.” I guess the plus side is that would get rid of John Giles.   


Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama Court Decisions, Alabama Legislature, Elections

13 Comments on “Alabama, Felons, Moral Turpitude, And Voting”

  1. Willie Says:

    My wife, the prohibitionist, thinks that it is a crime of moral terpitude to have a two scotchs before dinner.

  2. Dan Says:

    Troy King also thinks it’s a crime of moral turpitude to participate in “sodomy” (which include homosexual acts in Alabama) and to cheat on your taxes.

  3. Willie Says:

    On the first, does theater camp count? Now on the taxes part, I have to plead guilty to padding my church contributions and fudging on my volunteer mileage totals. Like they say, he who tells the truth on a mortgage application, doesn’t get a mortgage.

  4. Humpty Dumpty Says:

    Ah, I enjoy seeing the latest logical fallacy from our redneck ‘liberal’ (brainwashed) lawyer friend. Now you are claiming that allowing felons to vote again will “reduce” recidivism.

    Hmmm. . . have you any studies to prove this? I’m pretty sure the run of the mill drug dealer, DUI, were not exactly model citizens to begin with. I doubt they were voting much, overall. And I doubt showing up to a booth every four years will change their habits. Sounds totally ridiculous in fact.

    But you are wrong about virtually everything.

    In any case, the real reason you support letting convicted murderers on parole vote, and rapists getting involved with the league of women voters, is because

    1) It’s the liberal party line, which you tow
    2) Felons tend to vote democratic, and you want more voters.
    3) You think criminals are victims, and society the oppressor.

    So there you have it. You really dont care about the convicted molesters and such, you just want their votes for buffoons that make up your precious democrat party.

    Perhaps if you give me your address and phone number, I can wait outside some of the prisons and refer the convicts to you, for you to better their condition with liberal thought, and teach them to be responsible voters.

    So blogger, please send your contact info to

    I promise (not a joke) to personally wait outside the nearest prison and have the released convicts sent to you, so you can help reduce the recidivism rate. Because, according to your philosophy, they have “paid their debt” and are now completely ‘equal’ to the law abiding folk like you.

    Of course, you dont believe in guns, so maybe you might want to reverse your opinion on that issue.

    I’ll be waiting. . .

  5. Willie Says:

    Hey Hum, Just for clarification, what postal facility do you work in?

  6. wheeler Says:


    i really don’t know how to respond. and i guess it doesn’t matter does it? after all, you already know everything i think. so why bother explaining myself to you.

    all i can say is that there is no way on god’s green earth i would ever let you know where i live. i would rather send a picture of me crapping on the koran, along with a self addressed return envelope, to osama bin laden than give my info to a nut case like you.

  7. Humpty Dumpty Says:

    Passionate argument you cant respond to = “Nutcase” ????

  8. […] Besides, like I said here, regardless of whether the opinion was good, bad, or indifferent, the decision is not going to let anyone vote who could not vote before the election. […]

  9. Not a Felon Says:

    I’ve seen the opinion, and it is an offense to the rule of law regardless of how you feel about felon disenfranchisement. First, the plaintiffs argued that the SOS was not correctly applying the “moral turpitude” distinction but never argued that the distinction itself was improper — the judge should not have reached out to an issue that was not argued. Second, the judge declined to rule on federal grounds, so his circular ruling is in effect that an amendment to the state constitution violates . . . the STATE CONSTITUTION. Third, he rules that judges cannot interpret “moral turpitude.” That’s the kind of thing judges do all the time, with all types of terms used in the law. State statutes use phrases such as “negligent,” “substantial,” etc. without giving them precise meaning, and judges consider cases and decide whether or not, on the facts before the court, the statute applies.

    The US Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that states can disenfranchise all felons. Why then can’t Alabama disenfranchise some, and not others? Would critics rather Alabama go as far as some other states?

  10. wheeler Says:

    i have not read it, but from the news i was under the impression that all he did was say that the legislature – not the court, nor SOS, nor AG – has to interpret ‘moral turpitude’ and that until the legislature does so, it means nothing.

    that does not prevent the state from disenfranchising all felons. it just means that if the state is going to do so, it must be the state that does it, as opposed to one single official like a judge or the sos or the ag.

    given the importance of voting and the extremely vague terminology, that sounds like a good result. though, like i said i have not read the decision so i do not know how good/bad the reasoning was.

  11. […] finally had a chance to read Judge Vance’s decision, in which he affirmed Alabama’s power to disenfranchise people convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, but said everyone gets to vote until the legislature defines moral turpitude. It confirmed my initial impression of the decision, as well as my criticisms of Twinkle and her kind. […]

  12. […] And Voting I’ve posted on this topic here, here, and […]

  13. Angie Says:

    @ Humpty Dumpty – Are you seriously saying that ALL convicted felons are democrats???

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