Allowing people in prison to vote

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison.

elon-voting-bars-buttonHmm. The idea of allowing people in prison to vote had never really crossed my mind before recent events.

Now the notion that people who were OUT of prison regaining the franchise HAS been an issue for me. For instance, voting rights can ONLY be restored through an individual petition or application to the government in Iowa and Kentucky, a draconian process.

This was also the standard in Florida until 2018, when the people decided to change it. Voting rights are now restored automatically upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation.

The right to vote is restored automatically once released from prison and discharged from parole – probationers can vote – in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, and New York. I can support this.

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison. Hey, this appeals to me even more.

But in Maine and Vermont, voting rights are retained while in prison, even for a felony conviction. This partially explains the position of Bernie Sanders, Presidential candidate and the US senator from the Green Mountain State

In an interview with Truthout’s Amy Goodman, Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, notes: “Prisoners are already counted for redistricting purposes, so they are already counted where they are incarcerated, but yet they’re not allowed to vote. So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“And if you believe the purpose of prison is not just punishment, but rehabilitation, then allowing people to still have one of their most fundamental civic responsibilities is a key aspect of rehabilitation.”

Of course, this gets into the whole conversation about whether prison is designed for incarceration or rehabilitation. Check out this 60 Minutes story about how a Connecticut prison is trying to implement a German-style (i.e., civilized) system.

How do other countries deal with the voting issue? Here is a chart of how 45 countries regulate the ability of felons to vote in or , out of prison, or not at all. Note that Canada and Germany are among the least restrictive.

This Truthout title caught my attention: Allowing People in Prison to Vote Shouldn’t Be Controversial. “The mass disenfranchisement of incarcerated people [in the United States] has a racist past and a racist present, and has been used in particular as a tool to suppress the Black vote.” This is clearly true.

“The denial of the vote to people behind bars takes a sharp toll on many marginalized communities, subjecting them to what many call ‘civil death’ — depriving a person of all legal rights.”

Naturally, Arthur chimed in on this issue – in fact, his post popped up as I was writing this piece. “Incarceration is disproportionately directed at people who aren’t white. But that’s an issue on its own, and not, by itself, a reason to let all prisoners vote. Or, maybe it should be?

“Maybe it could help restore justice to the criminal justice system by letting the victims of that system have a say. I don’t yet know what I think, but I’m listening.” That’s about where I’m at. But I’m leaning towards Bernie’s position, significant in that I had had NO position only weeks ago.