Written by: John Stephen & Taylor Stone
Millions of Americans are being cheated out of their right to vote, and the law of the land is to blame.
Attorney General Eric Holder recently gave a speech at Georgetown University, during which he discussed the voting rights that are given to−or more importantly, withheld from−convicted felons.
Determining the voting status of felons falls to each individual state, which has led to diverse legislation.
Maine and Vermont allow felons to vote during their prison sentence, while 11 states forbid convicted felons from voting ever again. The remaining states fall somewhere in between these opposite rulings.
Holder urged states, especially the 11 that ban felons from voting indefinitely, to restructure their laws concerning this issue because such legislation is outdated and counterproductive.
Those who have been convicted of a felony deserve to suffer a punishment for their actions, but such punishment should not extend to being stripped of their right to vote.
Many felons are reformed and rehabilitated throughout their time in prison, becoming reputable citizens and leaving their life of crime behind them. It is not fair to mandate that those people cannot have a say in who governs them simply because of a former lifestyle they no longer adhere to.
Holder said felony voting laws apply to a significant portion of African-Americans, causing them to be under-represented in many state elections.
The felony voting laws were employed by several southern states in the post-Civil-War era in order to keep African-Americans from participating in elections. Lingering racism and abhorrent prejudice led to many African-Americans being intentionally and wrongfully convicted during this time.
A law that was created in part to further a racist agenda has no place in our progressive society. Rather than protecting citizens’ liberties, felony voting laws restrict them.
The right to vote helps to make up the foundation of our democratic government, ensuring the people as a whole maintain their sovereignty in political affairs. To disenfranchise millions of American citizens is a grave misstep by our government.
Those serving prison time for felonies deserve to be stripped of their suffrage because they have temporarily been removed from society due to serious wrongdoing. Once they have been reinstated into society, they should receive the basic rights of normal citizens−including the right to vote.
If a former felon commits another crime and returns to prison, then his or her right to vote can be revoked for a second time. It is up to our justice system to determine the proper punishment for a felony rather than a state government inflicting a penalty of permanent disenfranchisement upon convicted felons.
The United States is a place where people can reinvent themselves over time, regardless of their past, and a single action should not prevent a citizen from retaining the power to be heard in our society.
In most states, felons have to wait years to have their voting rights restored and for a good reason: they are not trustworthy.
Being sent to prison is a punishment, and when someone commits an act that lands them there, they lose their freedom and democratic rights during that time.
The construct of a criminal spending time in prison sets guidelines for society, showing American citizens that when you commit a crime, you lose some of your freedom because you no longer deserve to have it.
Allowing felons to vote immediately after completing his or her sentence is like expecting a newborn baby to immediately start walking−it shouldn’t happen.
Restoring an important freedom, like voting, so quickly after a prisoner’s release is bad public policy, and it certainly doesn’t ensure the restoration of justice. In fact, it does exactly the opposite, harming the people that haven’t committed crimes by allowing someone who has to engage in making decisions that will directly affect the country.
Why should someone be allowed to vote that can’t even comply with the regulations of a civil society? Chances are they probably aren’t going to vote for the candidate that is best for the country−and that is exactly the reason advocates so fervently encourage that the voting rights of ex-felons be restored.
Advocates of restoring voting rights to criminals argue that discrimination against ex-felons will encourage them to commit more crime even though having the right to vote didn’t stop them from committing crime initially.
Voting rights are one of the few liberties that can be restored with time; many other freedoms once allowed can never be returned to ex-felons. So why focus on voting rights? Why not rally to allow felons to hold public office or to become police officers?
The real reason supporters of voting ex-felons focus on this single issue isn’t because they believe that criminals have “paid their debts” to society or because they came from “disadvantaging circumstances.” They want felons to vote because they know that ex-felons are going to vote for them.
It isn’t a coincidence that the majority of the advocates are democrats, ones that operate under the guise that it isn’t really the fault of the criminal that he or she committed a crime or ended up in prison. What criminal isn’t going to support that?
Voting has value; it is one of the most important practices in our society, allowing citizens to have a voice. Such an important right should not be immediately granted to individuals that squandered it away so easily.