Thursday, February 20, 2014

Convicted felons and the right to vote

Eleven states don’t restore voting rights to ex-felons, but a substantial majority of Americans believe that they should.

Attorney General Eric Holder brought up an interesting topic the other day while speaking at a criminal justice symposium at Georgetown University — the right to vote, or the denial of the right to vote for those who have committed a felony in the United States. This is important because it affects millions of potential voters in the United States.

While many voting rights are protected by the federal government and guaranteed by federal courts, there is one class of people in this country that have their right to vote determined on the state level. That is those who have been convicted of a felony crime. And the states do not agree on this issue.

Two states, Vermont and Maine, do not restrict the rights of convicted felons to vote at all (and they can vote by absentee ballot even while incarcerated). I like the position taken by these two states, because I think the right to vote is far too important to be taken away from any citizen — for any reason at all.

There are 37 states that allow a person to regain the right to vote — 13 states (and D.C.) allow a person to vote again after being released from incarceration, and 24 states allow a person to vote after being released from incarceration and completing their parole. These states follow a very American principle — that of believing people deserve a “second chance.”


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