Did Barbour pardons impact legislative suffrage bills?

May 31st, 2012 by Perry

Following the uproar over Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons, I decided to take a look at the number of bills passed by the legislature this year returning suffrage rights to convicted felons to see if there was a significant drop from recent years. No suffrage restoration bills passed this year; but none passed in 2009 either. Only 10 bills were introduced this year, but only 8 bills were introduced in 2010. And only 8 legislators introduced bills this year, but only 7 introduced bills in 2010. In fact, we’ve seen a steady decline in Mississippi of suffrage restoration activity in the legislature since 37 legislators introduced 48 bills with 35 passing and receiving gubernatorial approval back in 2004.

Pardons by a governor and restoration of suffrage rights through the legislature with gubernatorial approval are very different things. Most of the pardons granted by Barbour went to people who had already served their time and were conducting themselves as ‘law-abiding and honorable citizens in a good and lawful manner’ (to use a phrase the legislature uses in their suffrage restoration bills). A pardon wipes away the conviction; the restoration of suffrage does only restores the right to vote to a convicted felon who has otherwise fulfilled the punishment of his sentence.

Still, some might argue restoring the right to vote to a convicted felon is soft on crime. After the public outcry on the pardons, legislators who view themselves as tough on crime might not wish to pursue the restoration of rights. Whether that was the case this year is hard to say as the numbers follow the recent trend lines.

Legislative Suffrage Data in Mississippi 2004-2012

Legislative Suffrage Data in Mississippi 2004-2012

Year - Bills - Legislators - Approved
2004 - 48 - 37 - 35
2005 - 24 - 20 - 13
2006 - 16 - 12 - 07
2007 - 28 - 20 - 10
2008 - 27 - 21 - 08
2009 - 20 - 17 - 00
2010 - 08 - 07 - 07
2011 - 10 - 09 - 06
2012 - 10 - 08 - 00

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