About 5. 26 million people with a felony conviction are not allowed to vote in elections. Each state has its own laws on disenfranchisement. Nine states in America permanently restrict felons from voting while Vermont and Maine allow felons to vote while in prison. Proponents of felon re-enfranchisement believe felons who have paid their debt to society by completing their sentences should have all of their rights and privileges restored. They argue that efforts to block ex-felons from voting are unfair, undemocratic, and politically or racially motivated.
Opponents of felon voting say the restrictions are consistent with other voting limitations such as age, residency, mental capacity, and other felon restrictions such as no guns for violent offenders. They say that convicted felons have demonstrated poor judgment and should not be trusted with a vote. I believe convicted felons should be allowed to vote upon release from prison because they exercise good judgment; in addition, withholding their right to vote would be a violation of the US Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the eighth amendment.
One reason ex-felons are not allowed to vote is because of their perceived judgment. According to Roger Clegg, President and General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, we don’t let children, noncitizens, or the mentally incompetent vote because we do not trust them or their judgment. Furthermore, he believes that criminals belong in this category because people who commit serious crimes have shown that they are not trustworthy. On the other hand, Steve Chapman, Columnist and Editorial Writer at the Chicago Tribune, believes we let ex-convicts marry, reproduce, buy beer, own property, and drive.
They don’t lose their freedom of religion, or their right against self-incrimination, but in many places, the assumption is that they cannot be trusted to help choose our leaders. The purpose of a prison is to protect society and rehabilitate the offender. Rehabilitation refers to activities designed to change criminals into law abiding citizens, and include providing educational courses in prison, teaching job skills, and offering counseling. If we thought that prisoners could not be rehabilitated, then they should not be released.
If felons are released, we make a judgment that they are fit to live in society; therefore, they are capable of making trustworthy decisions. Moreover, not allowing felons to vote is a violation of the US Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States. Section Two of the Voting Act contains a general prohibition on voting discrimination.
Furthermore, Congress amended this section to prohibit any voting practice or procedure that has a discriminatory result or prohibits a group of people from voting. New York is one state that restricts felony voting. In the New York Election Law 5-106, it clearly disqualifies a group of people, incarcerated felons and felons on parole, from voting in elections. This is a blatant violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Further, prohibiting felons from voting is a violation of the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution.
The eighth amendment prohibits excessive penalties and demands that the punishment fits the crime. As a result, states that exclude felons from voting permanently, including Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida, are in violation of this amendment. On one hand, opponents of felon voting use the Fourteenth amendment to justify disenfranchising convicted felons. They believe in limiting the freedoms of convicted felons. Incarceration is designed to punish inmates and impress upon them the magnitude of their crimes.
On the other hand, using the Fourteenth Amendment to justify the disenfranchisement of felons by states is ambiguous. The amendment claims, “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States. ” For example, if John Doe was convicted of a felony, served time, and was released, all of his privileges as a citizen of the United States should be returned to him. Furthermore, disenfranchising felons is counter to the American tradition for the expansion of voting rights for all citizens.
All in all, convicted felons are still American citizens and should be allowed to vote upon release from prison. Efforts to prevent ex-felons from voting are unfair and undemocratic. After serving their prison sentence, they have paid their debt to society and have been rehabilitated. As a result, all of their natural rights as citizens should be returned to them. Not allowing felons to vote would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.