Convicted Felons Should Still Have the Right to Vote

  • November 10, 2020
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Convicted Felons should still have the Right to Vote – Democratic Article

We act as if convicted felons stop being human the second they are found guilty. Convicted felons are ineligible for certain types of employment, they face discrimination in housing and perhaps the most damaging is their inability to vote in elections.

Voting is one of the most basic rights granted to citizens. By denying this right, we’re effectively telling convicted felons that they forfeited their citizenship when they broke the law. I do believe that while serving their sentence felons should focus on reflection and rehabilitation. However, after they’ve served their time they should be reaccepted as members of our society. This means allowing them the right to have a voice in that society.

There are currently 11 states where felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes or require a governor’s pardon in order for their voting rights to be restored. In addition, felons may also face additional waiting periods after completing their sentences before their right to vote is restored.

This is ridiculous. These are people who have served their time in prison and are now facing additional penalties. Why are we further punishing people who’ve already paid the price for their actions?

Conservative voices have long claimed that voting is not a right, but a privilege. In a dissent authored by Judge Amy Coney Barrett, she argued that voting has historically been “a right that was exercised for the benefit of the community, rather than for the benefit of the individual” and therefore “belongs only to virtuous citizens.”

I’ve heard this argument before and it’s quite common among conservative voices and think tanks. The main problem with this argument is that it denies the potential for human growth and development. It assumes convicted felons will never have the ability to become virtuous citizens because they can only be defined by what they’ve done, not what they can do.

No one understands what it’s like to truly be desperate unless you’ve been in that position. If you asked a thief why he stole bread, he’d probably tell you it was because he was starving, not because he felt any ill will towards the baker. My point here is that crime can often be a result of circumstance, not poor judgement or virtue. People do what they must to survive. To judge them as not being virtuous comes off as both demeaning and out of touch.

When has Judge Barrett ever been put in a position where she didn’t know where her next meal was going to be or where she was going to sleep? For those of us who are fortunate enough to have the resources to live comfortably, we must understand that we’re not better than those granted less.

In fact, I’m reminded by a quote my father used to tell me when I was growing up: “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Thinking in this context, I expect people who have been given much in life to have the judgement and empathy to understand what’s a stake when we disenfranchise our fellow Americans. We take our away their voices and their humanity and shove them to the sidelines forever.

According to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy group aimed at restoring the voting rights of convicted felons, 5.2 million Americans are disenfranchised. While this number is massive, it becomes even more striking when we examine which demographic groups are impacted by this the most.

One in 16 African Americans are disenfranchised nationally. This number jumps up to one in seven in states such as Florida and Virginia. When you start to look at the numbers this way, it becomes clear what is happening. Through mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects African Americans, the system has simultaneously allowed for their mass disenfranchisement as well.

While it’s frustrating to see such staggering numbers of disenfranchised Americans, there are signs for hope. California just became the most recent state to extend voting rights to those currently on parole. Steps like these highlight that people are beginning to understand that we can’t treat felons as second-class citizens. They are human beings with rights that deserve the opportunity to redefine themselves after they serve their sentences. I believe as more convicted felons are given the right to vote, we’ll begin to see more politicians focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Hopefully, they will promote meaningful programs aimed a reintegrating these people back into society.

Written by Democratic Writer, Christopher Norman

Point of Information

Stop empathising with the criminal. Empathise with the victim! – A Republican Response

“By denying this right, we’re effectively telling convicted felons that they’ve forfeited their citizenship when they broke the law.” – That’s where our Christopher is correct. Law and justice are what most countries are founded upon. Every community puts certain laws in place so people can live amongst each other in harmony. If an individual breaks these laws, they violate the foundations of the country, thus forfeiting their right to citizenship.

Criminals are not deserving of rights that are equal to the rights of a law-abiding citizen. It is also correct that voting is a privilege that should only be bestowed upon the most deserving. I’m sure that convicts would be happy to vote to defund the police and open the prisons if they had the chance! And I would strongly disagree that the conservative argument against the ‘criminal suffrage’ is failing to acknowledge development and human growth. Laws are put in place so people understand the consequences of their actions. Some may be life-long. If a convict has murdered someone, it doesn’t matter that they’ve spent their appropriate time in prison. There are still people out there who are suffering the consequences of their action.

Saying that crimes are often a result of circumstance is a blanket statement that does not even apply to most crimes. The most common crimes in the US are property crimes, which include theft and burglaries. We need to direct our empathy towards the victims, not the criminals. If the punishment for a crime is not high enough there will be more crime. And allowing criminals to vote is proving to them that regardless of what they do, they are still equal to a person who’s been hard-working and had their belongings stolen. A note to the Foreign Perspective Writer; leave the constitution alone, it’s timeless!

Written by Republican Writer, Dinah Kolka

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Convicts should be stripped of their right to vote – A Foreign Perspective

First of all, I would like to thank Christopher for raising such a crucial topic. The prison population in the US large; Over 5 million people remain disenfranchised in the US according to the Sentencing Project, as mentioned already by Christopher. This is a huge number of people who are not able to vote. Convicted criminals who have a suspended sentence or who have been released from jail on a licence are allowed to vote in the UK which I think is crucial to make sure their voices are still heard.

However, I strongly believe that criminals in prison should not have the right to vote while serving their sentence. This is a very controversial statement but they have had their chance to prove themselves to the world, especially if they have committed extremely dangerous crimes. I do think people who have committed low-tier crimes should still have the chance to vote especially if they have completed a “re-education” programme. Re-education is crucial to integrate criminals back into the real world. I agree with Christopher that the US is starting to understand the issue surrounding disenfranchisement.

In the US, it is incredibly difficult to manage this issue due to federalism and state law. I do think the US constitution needs to be reviewed and amended as difficult as it is. I agree it should be kept for traditional reasons but it has caused problems for the modern world.

Written by Foreign Perspective Writer, Max Jablonowski

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Christopher Norman
Democrat Writer
Dinah Kolka
Junior Conservative writer at | Website

My name is Dinah Kolka and I am going into the first year of Journalism at Napier University in Edinburgh. Recently, I graduated from Edinburgh College with an HNC in Media and Communications. This ignited my interest in politics and journalism.

Max Jablonowski
Max Jablonowski
Conservative Writer at | Website

I am Max Jablonowski, a second year student studying French and Politics at the University of Exeter, and I am about to go on my year abroad to Paris to complete two internships. I was Academic Events Manager of the Politics Society in Exeter and I was privileged enough to organize events such as Question Time, co-host the 2019 General Election Hustings with MWEXE and host the Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP, the current Minister of State for Security.

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