There was some discussions among Republicans recently about whether ex-felons should be able to vote. Rick Santorum favored allowing felons to vote after they’ve served their prison sentences. Mitt Romney said he didn’t think people who have committed violent crimes should be allowed to vote again. You won’t hear me saying this much, but I agree with Santorum.

I used to believe ex-felons should have the right to vote restored because they had served their time. NOW, I believe ex-felons should have the right to vote restored because not doing so essentially criminalizes them for life, making any chance of reintegration into society even more difficult, possibly aggravating the recidivism problem.

Also, if a law is unfair or unjust – that HAS been known to happen – those who might have been convicted under it would have no real say in overturning it. This article addresses that aspect, and shows that NOT allowing them to vote isn’t even a common position among the states; adding restrictions would be a retrograde move.

And not all crimes are equal. A 19-year-old guy having sex with his 17 year-old girlfriend could get a him on a sex offender list as a felon in some states. Chaos at an Occupy demonstration could give someone a permanent police record.

What do you think? What is the possible benefit of disenfranchising a whole class of people? Even Santorum notes its racial aspect.

6 Responses to “Allowing Ex-Felons to Vote QUESTION”

  • Felons who are serving their time are routinely counted as electoral apportionment, yet they cannot vote. That is unfair to everybody else. Either the current felons should not be counted as voters, or they should be allowed to vote.

    But the big problem with barring ex-felons from voting is that this is a convenient way to prevent people from voting. All you have to do is start pinning felonies on citizens for the sole purpose of taking away their right to vote along with other rights. Oh, that’s not going to happen, you say? Already been happening.

    BTW, you might remember there were several cases of young teenagers sending each other lewd pictures of each other, and being charged with child molestation. Now that’s clearly a contrivance to create felons:

    http://www.denverpost.com/ci_4783650

  • Dave Lochner says:

    I personally don’t see how not letting ex-felons vote benefits society. Prison should be about rehabilitation. Turning prison mates into productive members of society should be the long term goal of every prison, if possible. Sadly I have to say that this is not the goal of imprisonment in America today, rather it seems to be a system of punishment to be doled out in equal doses to every prisoner, regardless of their offense. Removing the most sacred of rights from ex-felons is not a measure of rehabilitation, it is a means of further ostracizing these members of society.

  • Chris Honeycutt says:

    Complicated. I can definitely see how denying someone the right to vote is connected with the loss of other rights that come as part of punishment.

    And yet, for issues like just punishment and nonviolent offenses, how will the system change if people convicted on things like drug offenses are not allowed to vote?

    It’s a serious issue. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the fact that we imprison drug possession is not a problem or a cause of our massive prison population:

    http://www.justice.gov/dea/demand/speakout/10so.htm

    But if you look at the statistics, while only 5% are in federal prison on simple drug offenses, 27% in state prison are in on simple drug offenses (stats in DEA link above.)

    Why is that is that important? Well, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2237) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (http://www.bop.gov/news/quick.jsp ), only about 200,000 of the 2,250,000+ (2.25 million) US prison population are in fed prisons.

    That means that more than 600,000 people are in US jails for simple drug possession. And that’s not even considering the 5 million that are not in prison but are currently “supervised” by law enforcement (BJS link above.)

    So, what does THAT mean?

    Well, first, we’re disenfranchising people at a pretty good clip. And considering that 1 in 3 black men will spend time in prison – most likely for a petty offense like drug possession – it’s a biased disenfranchisement, mostly against the poor black and Latino populations.

    So, I think it’s a bad idea. If they want to set standards where anyone convicted of a certain crime loses their voting rights, fine, set it in the standards of judgement. Let it be a part of the whole “You’re convicted of such-and-such and you must serve 9 months…” blah blah blah. That way, like the death penalty in capital cases, we can debate if it’s an appropriate punishment.

    But a blanket disenfranchisement is a bad idea simply because it means that unjust laws or incommensurate punishments stay on the books.

  • Roger, I choose to say I agree with you and not that other guy who happens to be running for president. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to deny prisoners serving time the right to vote—the whole point of incarceration to is to punish them by taking away their rights as citizens. However, once the sentence is completed, their full rights ought to be restored. To me, even licensing in some professions ought to be restorable, if that’s a word, depending on the circumstances of the ex-convict.

    I also think it’s important to remember that not all convicted felons have committed violent crimes: In some jurisdictions possessing “too much” marijuana is a possible felony. Before Lawrence v. Texas two consenting adult men caught having sex could face felony charges.

    I think we need to remember that the goal is rehabilitation, not eternal punishment. I agree with you that keeping ex-felons as perpetual non-citizens can only make the recidivism problem worse.

  • Uthaclena says:

    The cliche is “If you commit the crime you serve the time.” However, the terms of the punishment should only rarely include a lifetime stigma other than certain categories such as sexual predators who cannot be rehabilitated. If a person needs to be stripped of their civil rights it seems to me that should only be because of a sentence of (genuine) life-long imprisonment without parole.

  • Lisa says:

    If they’ve served their time and are a member of society again I say they should be able to vote. If they are incarcerated, then they’ve given up that right along with the right to participate in society.

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