Gleanings: October 7, 2016

Used under a creative commons license. Created by Democracy Chronicles, https://www.flickr.com/photos/democracychronicles/

How felony convictions affect voting rights / Obama’s letter on economic policy to his successor / High school athletes stand up / Building more diversity in police departments

How felony convictions affect voting rights

More than six million Americans won’t be able to vote in the upcoming election because of a felony conviction on their record, according to a study by the Sentencing Project as reported in the New York Times.

They are disproportionately black and Hispanic, and in three swing states — Florida, Iowa and Virginia — they are barred from voting for life. In Florida, one in every 10 adults, and one in every five African-Americans, can’t vote.

In Kentucky, which is one of 12 states to impose a lifetime voting ban, 9 percent of adults (and 26 percent of blacks) cannot vote because of felony convictions. By comparison, only 0.6 percent of Ohio’s adults cannot vote. Ohio is one of 14 states that restores voting rights when a person convicted of a felony is released from prison. Two states–Maine and Vermont–allow persons with felony convictions to vote, even when they are in prison.

Obama’s letter on economic policy to his successor

President Obama wrote an open letter on economic policy to his successor, published as an editorial in The Economist titled “The Way Ahead.”

His aim is to restore faith in the country’s capitalist economy “where hardworking Americans can get ahead.” He recognizes that “a capitalism shaped by the few and unaccountable to the many is a threat to all…and that economies are more successful when we close the gap between rich and poor and growth is broadly based.”

He warns against radical reforms, as appealing as they might be, arguing for policy specifics that require business and government to partner for a better future.

High school athletes stand up

Thanks to the Enquirer for its coverage (here, here, here, and here) of the high school athletes–Withrow football players and Clark Montessori soccer player–who joined the protest started by Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick opted to sit, then kneel, during the national anthem to highlight the police shootings of black men and other racial disparities whose realities do not match the values that we, as a nation, espouse.

The protests have been criticized as disrespectful to police officers, veterans, and the flag.

The Enquirer, in its weekly thumbs up/thumbs down editorial, reminded readers that the high school players are peacefully exercising their right to free speech. And police officers, veterans, and others have come forward to show their support for the protests.

Building more diversity in police departments

Making police departments more reflective of the communities they serve will improve policing and help restore trust, says a new report by the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The report looks at strategies and practices to advance diversity in law enforcement.

“I think it’s just a more critical examination of what is most important to the job, what minimum qualifications do we need, and to design the tests to ensure that they are not screening out people who could otherwise be very successful at the job,” said Jenny R. Yang, chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, quoted in the Washington Post.

The report questions whether the tests used to screen applicants correspond to the work on the job. For example, the physical tests may unnecessarily screen out female applicants, and the written tests may do the same with minority applicants.

Some states and agencies do not have citizenship requirements, relying instead on work authorization or legal permanent residency status for hiring purposes.

The report also encourages agencies to allow applicants with prior arrest records to apply for exemptions. Agencies might consider the nature of the underlying offense, the elapsed time since its occurrence, and other mitigating factors indicating qualifications for work as police officers.

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