Immoral Majority: How NC Law Allows Sex Registrants to Vote; But Not Vote.

States have disenfranchised felons and now include sex offenders. The number of convicted in the US creates a concern for politicians that their vote that may be a vote against them. People are demanding reforms, but politicians fear losing power to those that have voting rights restored. But it gets more complicated as lawmakers create unnecessary hurdles to vote.

There has always been an assumption in America that voting is a right and privilege of its citizens. While the spirit of that argument may be meaningful, it’s not entirely accurate. The United States Constitution, when it was initially drafted and ratified, didn’t define who was eligible to vote. It left that decision up to states. On April 19, 1792, Kentucky was the first state to ban voting for anyone convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Soon after many states followed suit by prohibiting voting rights for those with conviction creating a term commonly known as “criminal disenfranchisement.” As the centuries passed and more Americans were becoming casualties of the prison system, the disenfranchised and advocates pushed to reform voting rights. Those affected by states refusing to allow voting of those convicted was gaining momentum in part by allowing a voice of the repressed. On June 24, 1974, The US Supreme Court ruled in the case Richardson v. Ramirez that disenfranchising convicted felons does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. On April 16, 1985, the US Supreme Court ruled that criminal disenfranchisement Is legal in the case of Hunter v. Underwood.  The courts say voting standards are the responsibility of each state as long they do not discriminate against race, sex and those that reach the age of 18 on the day of voting. The state can rid of the homeless from voting if it chooses because they have no address to report. It is just how the law sometimes works without much sympathy for how it may impact the disenfranchised. 

Today justice reforms and voting rights have been hot topics of controversy delivered with undertones of mysterious voter fraud and gerrymandering redistricting planning that suggests disenfranchisement.  Election boards are often tasked to identify and disqualify those with felony criminal records. It is up to the voter to prove their rights have been restored if the state allows such a request. But what if voting rights are restored allowing those not confined to prisons or jails to vote freely? That would surely indicate the freedom to arrive on election day to cast your vote at your assigned polling place.  Absolutely not!  In North Carolina, all you have to be is on the sex offender registry, and the act of voting could mean spending five years in prison.  Why? Nearly all of the polling locations in North Carolina are at schools or places where registrants are prohibited. The 1000-foot rule ban for registrants applies to public or private schools. Registrants are forbidden to live, work, or loiter in these invisibly marked far-reaching areas protected by unforgiving and harsh penalties. The loosely written 300-foot law was added later preventing registrants anywhere a daycare operates (private home or business) and where minors “frequently congregate.”  A minor by state law is 18 years of age. Examples of restricted locations include, but not limited to libraries, arcades, amusement parks, recreation parks, swimming pools, museums, shopping malls, and fairs. The law also suggests that restaurants, businesses, and places of worship with play spaces or care services specifically intended or scheduled for minors are off limits and subject to immediate arrest. (G.S. 14-208.18) Basically, forget trying to eat at a McDonald’s without fear of someone reporting a sighting of a sex offender sitting at a table far from the play area. Therefore, don’t stop to eat at McDonald’s, then drive to the library to pick up the newest book available on your way to vote in the next election before treking home. That registrant perhaps just added 20 years of prison time for all those offenses.

However, there is a workaround allowing registrants access to voting in person. First, a registrant with voting privileges must contact his/her County Board of Elections. Usually, there is a form to request an absentee ballot. Once the form is submitted and approved a ballot will be mailed weeks before an election. It is that moment an individual can vote in the privacy of their own home. However, that person will need two required signatures from relatives or acquaintances as proof that they are who they claim to be. If registrants have no family support or available friends,  the voter must locate and pay for a Public Notary to officially stamp and certify the ballot. Lastly, the absentee voter, once again, has to pay for postage to mail the excessively large envelope back before the voting deadline. It is safe to say registrants must pay $6 each time they vote

If you are that rare and daring registrant that chooses to vote in person on election day, then you may test your luck. There is an unusual step, according to law, that loosely allows voting registrants to appear in person. First, the registrant must call the school where the voting takes place. Second, speak with the principal of the school and disclose the full name of the registered sex offender assigned to that location to vote. Third, if the principal agrees, then they must contact the County School Board of its decision to allow and escort at all times an offender on the property. Fourth, the School Board office contacts the Sheriff for guidance. Fifth, the offender is eligible to vote with police and school staff shooing families away until the registrant casts a ballot and leaves. But this tested method in practice never really works. Voters and principals don’t coordinate well with polling stations filled by long lines and the ill-timing of when registrants can arrive to vote.  Early voting has its limitations too. Many satellite polling stations are at community colleges, public libraries, and YMCA locations. All of these places are off-limits or have a policy that forbids registrants.

People often ask, “why not just sneak in and out to vote?” One, it is unlawful and a public record that a vote took place in person. Two, deputies and police often patrol school grounds as resource officers keeping the schools safe in addition to voter security during high voter turnout. If an officer recognizes a registrant, then they are subject to immediate arrest for being on or near school property.  A person can exclaim the principle has been notified in advance, and no children are present. It doesn’t matter because registry compliance laws are all felonies. There are limited protections within the law that allowing voting rights to registrants. However, officers typically say, “tell it to a judge.” It will always be the discretion of an officer should they choose to arrest or not. Cases in North Carolina Sex Offender Arrests for compliance violations usually say somewhere in police reports “loitering around an area minors frequent.” If minors are not present, it doesn’t matter if an arrested individual is sitting in jail only to have the case dismissed. The arrest and waste of taxpayer time, resources, in addition to crafting a charge that isn’t true but indirect significantly shakes the core of “letter and spirit of the law” of those affected. The state is the body of government that decided to use schools for polling locations but perhaps deliberately did so to keep a sex offender from voting? Nearly twenty-thousand registrants are intimidated, discouraged, and effectively banishes from reasonably accessible voting, educational, public, and right to purchase property in North Carolina. 

When California introduced its version of a state sex offender registration program, its primary target was to criminalize and shame homosexuality. By the mid-’80s, the registry grew to other states targeting the worst possible repeat sex offenders. It also somewhat targeted homosexuals entangled in sexual acts with boys or consensual adult sex in public restrooms. If caught police would put into action a shaming campaign to large print media agencies and publicly mentioning them by name in community awareness meetings. Officers would describe in graph detail laced with description what transpired at the scene facilitating a sensation for others to change the story to uncontrollable measures. During that period there were no restrictions, no websites, no laws interfering with registrants. Instead, it was a carefully coordinated effort to identify and isolate a group found undesirable and highly promiscuous – as portrayed by police. Naturally, the stories police, politicians, and in the name of religion were a continual targets to purge gay life.

A couple of years later California fundamentalists and a powerful lobby group known as the Moral Majority began a campaign to insert a highly charged conservative agenda to change what were perceived by the group to be threats to society. Ronald Reagan was not elected President just yet.  The mission of the Moral Majority was to mobilize a conservative political force for judgeships, Congress, and ultimately making Reagan the 40th President of the United States. It succeeded to do just that. It’s behind the scenes mission was to influence its agenda to the presidency, media, politics, businesses, and grass-roots communities.  A part of that agenda was to mobilize others to support traditional family values, condemning homosexuality and the responsibility for the AIDS crisis, and sexual perversion.  As the AIDS epidemic became a nightly news controversy, the Moral Majority would take to the airwaves, congregations, and radio stations across America suggesting that those with HIV or AIDS be listed on a registry. Public panic directed fear of homosexuals because they may be infected with HIV. There were awful slurs uttered that being gay also meant they are pedophile tendencies and have an agenda to infect children. It’s not uncommon to hear today that gay men are attracted to boys. It is an irrational charge that not only perpetuates lies and innuendo but extends to other groups, mainly registered offenders.  The footprint of the now-defunct Moral Majority continues to linger with fundamentalist rhetoric. It continues to lay claim that “we must tighten and purge any forms of deviant sexual behaviors because there is no cure for this sickness.” As the fundamentalist’s voices become louder, so will the influence and persuasive theme that “if you say it enough, people will believe it.

Today the registry is far incredibly beyond the visions of the Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994, Megan’s Law of 1996 and the Adam Walsh Act of 2006.  The registry has become a state’s rights shaming tool adding anything in any way it sees fit. The registry has evolved into this societal human data dumpster where anyone can be listed for life and unable to do anything to stop it. Three major federal acts working in concert with individual states, municipal, and town ordinance makes the registry a conundrum nearly impossible to absolve in our lifetime. Law enforcement, politicians, and fundamentalists sell and absorb it to distribute to the masses. It is when politicians create laws that restrict any form of a consistent voice is where the war on sex offender reform must begin. That discussion must include false labels, hysteria, sensationalism, lack of facts, and it’s compulsive-obsessive must-have access without any idea what to do with the information provided. At some point, the registry will become so massive that it will not only surpass jail and prison populations but will trickle into travel, insurance, health, and financial agencies as forms of approval creating black market services that will allow other criminal networks to flourish.

When North Carolina passed its comprehensive child congregation law, it made it impossible for registrants to visit his/her elected official in the state legislature. Because school groups, children, and other youth programs take place on legislative property, it disallows registrants being on the property. If representatives from NARSOL were to request a city demonstration permit to protest at the N.C. Legislative Building, it perhaps would be approved. However, all of the participants on the registry would be arrested. Merely engaging in legal, civic, and public space creates unreasonable and unconstitutional methods. If the state proceeds with plans to kick registrants off the internet, then it will add to the impossibilities to email an elected official to protest current or future legislation. The right to demonstrate, right to use libraries, pools, public parks, churches, access to voting, loitering, damaging mischaracterizations, banning registrants from use of the internet to contact his/her elected officials are “nails in the coffin.” The intent of the registry today is to uplift disenfranchisement to an insurmountable level where reforms and rehabilitation will never be allowed to have a voice. 

Assessing LGBT issues in contrast to registered sex offenders is essential. While many may disagree with similarities, the laws that once restricted and intruded upon gay life, suspicion, and rumor are strikingly similar to that of registrants. Gays were fired from jobs for suspecting to be gay. Accesses to lawmakers was always a closed door to gay advocates. Pools didn’t want gay people fearing that AIDS would infect the water. Street gangs would beat up gays on the way to polling to intimidate and frighten. Churches didn’t want gays and if they did insist, they attend conversion therapy (similar to sex offender treatment). Gays were often subject to arrests just for being gay. Thanks to the Stonewall Riots in New York, the intimidation suddenly stopped. I’m not suggesting registrants’ riot or commit acts of violence. But all of these acts didn’t require being on a registry. LGBT citizens have been erroneously mislabeled, arrested for protesting, arrested for consensual actions, wrongly accused of misconduct, and the list is nearly identical for registrants.  What the gay community did to change that was come together and unify, much like NARSOL and other organizations. It is safe to say that the message often isn’t unified or in agreement. That is completely okay.  But it is ultimately crucial that a message from all walks of life, backgrounds, genders, religious affiliation, identity, political influencers, age, race, and disabilities become a louder and amplified voice for how legislation, restrictions, and promotion of the culture of fear standard hurt families, commerce and a create a pathway towards socialism. Being told where to live, where to work, what’s off limits, no accesses to God or religion, told where and when to shop, to ask permission to attend school, standing in food bank lines to get a loaf of bread and report to the police periodically when requested. It has the smell of communism but branded as socialism.  

This very moment, registrants are the newly rebranded “Immoral Majority“. Its mission to engage with media such as radio, print, or television. Contact politicians, support businesses that hire registrants or formerly incarcerated, actively vote, and speak about how family values have been disruptive and an impact to self and others because of the registry. Be persistent, professional, to the point, thankful for the opportunity to be heard, and unafraid of constant rejection. Lastly, pray for self and others. The message to lawmakers is that “voting rights of a million registrants and growing aren’t disenfranchised anymore.”  As American citizens, there must be equal access under the law and spirit of independence without fearing our neighbor. The silence attempt by legislation is clearly an attack on democracy, freedom, and justice.  The registry is an un-American tactical product disguised as an act of safety but delivered as a Ponzi scheme. Registrants may be the swing vote to turn the next election? 

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

Say goodbye to Land of the Free

Growing up I can recall moments where I would often see a sign posted on a business establishment window with the words, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.” Those words set a standard of particular behaviors expected by society. Fast forward and those signs have been removed, bypassed with the introduction of flip-flops, or completely ignored. There appears to be a standard that implied rules or laws are meant to be broken or perhaps apply to individuals we selectively want to create constructive prejudisms.

Decades ago establishments and Jim Crow laws applied to where an African-American could legally use a restroom, water fountain, eat, shop, and perhaps live. Eventually, those ridiculous laws were overturned, but someone migrated under the table towards the homosexual community as a silent gesture. However, if people look closely, there are continual hints that such laws used in a discriminatory fashion that continually apply restrictions but in discrete methods. Such methods begin when areas wish to gentrify neighborhoods, business districts, or rezoning regulation. Grandfather clauses became a thing of the past to be replaced with loitering, eminent domain, low-cost housing initiatives, immigration reforms, and group home regulations. These issues present an odor of Jim Crow legislation but masked and prepackaged to tailor a politically correct argument with a single vision and directive to make it nearly impossible for people to have an actual say regarding their wishes or wants.

Society claims to be free embracing the rule of law only if it applies to their standard which varies from person to person. In fact, legislation and regulation have been either pedestaled as too extreme or either too weak. There is no middle ground or an act of understanding anymore – at least from my daily observations. Instead of “no shirt, no shoes, no service” we have constructed conditions where people are no longer free to choose where they live. Such choices could be if a person has deemed a registered sex offender or an individual ordered by the courts for domestic violence has restrictions placed upon them. Again, these are hidden versions of Jim Crow styled laws not allowing free people to move freely. But when registrants, parolees, or rehabilitated drug users attempt to find work, housing, and to integrate into society once again, the Bill of Rights, Constitution, the rule of law, human rights, societal behaviors of redemption have been somehow tossed out the window. My argument is that law has become a new form of selective prejudices to create and manufacture how we can hope to keep others to their standard rather than an equitable and equal standard.

A fact is that society continually seeks not justice but an issue it wants to either rid of or kept hidden, invisible, and unnoticed by others for the sake of properly value and supposed safety. Americans do like to pick on the underdog quite often. However, a free nation that enjoys and employs a vast sex registry among a large jail and prison network it won’t even with the best prison reforms be able to hide the fact that supporters of such methods are no different than Jim Crow supporters. In fact, they are enabling the visions of Jim Crow standards no differently by citing freedoms to live, shop, work anywhere as long as it’s not in my neighborhood or community. Say goodbye to Land of the Free based on that assessment.

Political Shutdown Games

I am not normally political. This post will be an exception because I am an American and I am concerned.

Please allow me to frame the issues involved with “the wall” in its actual terms. Despite what the media is saying, this is not about Democrat vs. Republican. In short, the executive branch of our government is threatening to declare a national emergency since the legislative branch will not authorize the seizure of private American property for a federal works project nor will fund it. The executive branch has already shut down the federal government. It is currently threatening to extend this government shut down for however long it takes for the legislative branch to cave.

Let us break this down. 

First of all, the framework of our government is based on checks and balances. Power is divided into three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. The Legislative branch controls the purse strings of government and creates laws. The Executive branch carries out those laws. The Judicial branch tells us whether the laws are constitutional or not. Each branch was designed to be able to balance the other branches.

Why? As shown by our original rebellion, Americans didn’t want a King or a Dictator when we were setting up our government. We were not particularly thrilled with a House of Lords telling us what we could or could not do either.

In this case, the executive branch wants to:
(1) take governmental cash; 
(2) create its own law; 
(3) take away private property from American citizens; 
(4) create its own federal works project. 

At least three of these functions fall within the power/ responsibility of the legislative branch. So, what is the problem? This is one of the most naked power grabs by the executive branch over the others in recent history. Once that power is exercised, it is going to be difficult or impossible to regain any balance again. The executive branch was never meant to have that much power (see our country’s previous concerns about Kings and Dictators). Is this constitutional? Very doubtful. Should all Americans be concerned? That is a question for you to answer yourself. 

Second, a “National Emergency” is generally declared under these general conditions: 
(1) Natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes to name a few; 
(2) Public health emergencies such as significant outbreaks of infectious diseases;
(3) Military attacks; 
(4) Civil insurrection;
(5) Any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy.

Now the first 4 aren’t applicable. The last category was meant to be short-term only. It was designed to be reviewed by the legislative branch every year after it’s enacted (because again; the check and balance is fundamental to how we operate).

So, what is the problem here? If national emergencies can be declared by the executive branch for non-emergency purposes which vest power in one branch of the government why would that branch ever let go of that power again?

Third, the seizure of private property (known as “eminent domain”, a body of law which says the government cannot just take your home without due process). You are joking, right? No. The US/Mexican border is 1,933 miles long. It runs through 4 states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). Only 33% of that land is actually owned or managed by the Federal Government. A sizable percentage of that land is owned by the Indian nations. It is land preserved for those tribes by treaty and land given under treaty is not land owned by the United States. These tribes already have a lot of reasons to be angry at the Federal Government. This would be pouring additional gas on an open flame.

The other 64% of that land is privately owned. 

How much land would have to be taken? The amount of land that the Federal Government would have to take would likely run 1,237 miles long to 12,371 miles deep (assuming a 1 to 10-mile DMZ from the border into the United States). Even if we could only take 100 to 500 ft of land in densely populated areas, that is a lot of private property that is going to be seized by the Federal government. 

The land necessary for this project would also run through some highly populated areas in the US such as San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo. There will be a lot of Americans who are going to have their homes and businesses taken by the federal government. Which will also mean a lot of lawsuits.

In terms of the federal works project, these types of works include hospitals, bridges, highways, walls and dams. These projects may be funded by local, state, or federal appropriations. If they are federal, they are funded by the legislative branch of our government (the same branch that our executive branch is currently trying to take power from). Is the seizure of power constitutional? Not likely given the separation of powers discussed above.

Finally, these considerations do not take into account the sheer cost, human and monetary, that will be involved. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the current cost at $21 billion for construction alone (not counting costs of maintenance or costs associated with increased military/federal patrolling). 

Ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time that you saw a governmental project brought in under time and under budget? Does anyone remember the “big dig” in Boston, Mass? The actual costs are likely to be much higher. This estimated cost also does not include compensating folks for taking their land or the associated impact upon their businesses. 

The Federal budget deficit grew to $779 billion dollars in 2018 according to the Treasury Department. How are we, as a country, going to fund this project? How are we, as a country, going to deal with the additional debt? Unlike private businesses, our country cannot declare bankruptcy. 

This is not about Democrat vs. Republican. It is not about who has the best zingers measured in 10 second sound bites. It is about our country. The core of this issue deals with the profound and immense changes the outcome will have on the structure of our nation. This is the way that we, as a country, should be framing these issues. Please think about it.

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