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Shayana Kadidal Headshot

Can Ted Stevens Vote for Himself? Not Anymore

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The New York Times reports, correctly, that Sen. Stevens can run for reelection despite his convicted felon status:

"Despite being a convicted felon, [Sen. Ted Stevens] is not required to drop out of the race or resign from the Senate. If he wins re-election, he can continue to hold his seat because there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress. The Senate could vote to expel Stevens on a two-thirds vote."

Ironically, though, it looks like Stevens may not be able to vote for himself. Felons whose crimes involve "moral turpitude" (defined by state law to include bribery, Alaska Stat. 15.60.010(9)) cannot vote in Alaska, at least until their civil rights are restored, which only happens when "a person is released from all disability arising under a conviction and sentence, including probation and parole." (The statute is at this citation: Alaska Stat. 15.60.010(39).) Deregistration from the voting rolls is automatic upon conviction.

Stevens was convicted of violating ethics disclosure rules. Technically the indictment charged violation of the federal criminal statute 18 U.S.C. 1001, which makes it a crime to knowingly fill out a federal form falsely. I guess the question now is whether that offense fits within the definition of a "felony involving moral turpitude" under Alaska law, below:

(9) "felony involving moral turpitude" includes those crimes that are immoral or wrong in themselves such as murder, manslaughter, assault, sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, unlawful exploitation of a minor, robbery, extortion, coercion, kidnapping, incest, arson, burglary, theft, forgery, criminal possession of a forgery device, offering a false instrument for recording, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records, commercial bribe receiving, commercial bribery, bribery, receiving a bribe, perjury, perjury by inconsistent statements, endangering the welfare of a minor, escape, promoting contraband, interference with official proceedings, receiving a bribe by a witness or a juror, jury tampering, misconduct by a juror, tampering with physical evidence, hindering prosecution, terroristic threatening, riot, criminal possession of explosives, unlawful furnishing of explosives, promoting prostitution, criminal mischief, misconduct involving a controlled substance or an imitation controlled substance, permitting an escape, promoting gambling, possession of gambling records, distribution of child pornography, and possession of child pornography;

I would guess it does, but I invite input from the legal experts out there in the comments. If I'm right about that, Stevens joins the 5.3 million Americans who will be denied the right to vote because of their status as felons. In about a dozen states, one can lose the right to vote even after your probation is over. More on that issue generally here.

UPDATE: See the discussion below in the comments regarding whether Stevens is officially "convicted" (for purposes of the Alaska voter laws) upon the jury issuing its verdict, or whether something more needs to happen -- the judge issuing a final sentence (which won't happen here until February), or a "judgment of conviction" under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(k), which would include the results of the sentencing (and thus would also issue far after the election). Murky issues like this, at the intersection of state and federal law, are what we lawyers get paid the big bucks to sort out.

--October 27, 2008

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