“We let ex-convicts marry, reproduce, buy beer, own property and drive. They don’t lose their freedom of religion, their right against self-incrimination… they can’t be trusted to help choose our leaders… If we thought criminals could never be reformed, we wouldn’t let them out of prison in the first place (Chapman, Steve).” Many believe that felons should be able to vote due to the fact that they served their time in prison and already received their consequence. When felons already served their time, they are told they have their “freedom”. Yet, they do not have the same rights they did before they were arrested. Felons have paid enough of a price by serving their assigned sentence which shouldn’t lead into having the right to vote taken away from them.
On the other hand, others believe that felons do not deserve the right to vote. Such as, Ehrlinch, “I don’t think you reward the franchise to those who commit the most horrific crimes… (Ehrlinch, Robert).” He states that, voting is a reward and felons shouldn’t be rewarded because of their crimes. They also believe felons who convicted a crime have shown bad-judgment, which proves them unfit to make good decisions, especially choosing the nation’s leaders. Although many believe that if felons are given the right to vote, it will be a reward to them, however, there are those like myself, who believe that they should be given the right to vote because they still play a role into our society and state.
Many of the supporters of a felon’s right to vote believe that it is unfair to seemingly punish them twice for the same act. They believe that a felon’s debt to society is their time behind bars; they don’t believe that a felon should lose their vote and spend time behind bars. Felons who lose their right to vote would be too many punishments for one crime. Just because they have paid enough of their debt to be allowed out of prison, does not mean they are not continuing consequences. Other arguments of the advocates to the voting rights of felons include the data from a study suggesting that former offenders who vote are less likely to return to jail, “… may actually contribute to recidivism by keeping ex-offenders and their families disengaged from the civic mainstream.” In my opinion, if the system gives the felons their freedom, they should feel part of society, our community, now that they are out of jail or prison.
Anyhow, there are people who believe that felons should not be given the right to vote once they are out due to the fact that they have broken the law and don’t have the right to choose a leader. For instance, the declaration of Independence states that unalienable rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It does not say life, liberty and the right to vote. John Locke, who played an important part in the founding of America, also believed that each individual had certain rights that by nature they were entitled to, however, he also believed that the government had a duty to protect those rights. If someone violates another’s rights to life, liberty and property, then they forfeit their own rights to these things and society can punish him by removing their rights. The criminal has broken their social contract and violated the trust of their fellow citizens. In addition, not everyone is allowed to vote. Children, non citizens and those mentally incompetent are among those whose rights. “Voting requires certain minimum, objective standards of trustworthiness, loyalty and responsibility, and those who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens do not meet those standards.”
Racism is also a major concern in determining the justness of disenfranchising felons. Many believe that it is racist to deprive them of the right to vote because the felon population is of a Black and Hispanic majority. This does not, however, prove that racism is to blame. More men commit the majority of serious crimes, and unfortunately, Blacks and Hispanics also commit a disproportionate amount of felonies, which is shown in victim surveys. Either way the felon either does or does not deserve their punishment, regardless of what race they are. Even though people may believe that voting doesn’t make someone responsible, if the study was done, then there is a possibility that there can be less people entering jail by committing crimes. Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project and author of “Race to Incarcerate,” believes that in a democracy everyone’s voice should count, no matter what their views or behavior.
It is also believed that if the felon pays his or her taxes and contributes to society, why can they not have the right to vote? That is very true. Everyone is a human being and everyone makes mistakes. Whether some are more serious than others, there are those who deserve a second chance. Felons are still from this country and are bound by the same law as those who have never been convicted. If we are bound by the same law, we are bound by the same rights. Taking their right to vote is much similar to taking away their right of speech. The right of speech, as citizens we have, is the ability to voice your personal opinion and if felons have that right, they should be able to voice out their opinions through are government as well.
The argument of a felon’s right to vote is an important one because with roughly 5.3 million Americans unable to vote because they are ex-felons, whether or not they are able to vote could make a serious difference come Election Day. For example, the 2000 election, had ex-felons been able to vote in Florida, Al Gore would have almost certainly become the president instead of George W. Bush. Because of this many democrats have endorsed the felon’s right, one of them being Hillary Clinton. Committing a serious crime usually depicts an image of bad judgment. Roger Clegg, president of the conservative advocacy group, believes that, “If you aren’t willing to follow the law, you can’t claim the right to make the law for everyone else.” By breaking the law and using bad judgment, they have also proven themselves unfit to participate in major decision making, i.e. choosing the nation’s leaders (Holding).
Other suggested solutions include the general banning of a felons right to vote once they are convicted, with the option to petition for reinstatement after a certain number of years. This idea is best for both parties I believe. The decision to restore the right to vote should not be made automatically. It should be made carefully, weighing the seriousness of the crime, how long ago it was committed, whether there is a pattern of crime, and any evidence that the felon has really turned over a new leaf. This idea seems to be the most satisfying conclusion for both sides and could work well to give those who deserve it their right to vote. This would give a more fair view in further elections and it’s the best way to handle this controversy because if one wins the other is going to always be against it and having felons vote to an extent, it will equalize the situation.
In conclusion, even though both pro and cons have valid statements, I believe that we should ban voting rights to an extent. An extent being, banning the right to vote on the felon depending on the crime, if it seems that person is not willing to change, and how long ago was it. Having this will make it fair for those who deserve it. The arguments would not be based on racism, unfair, untrustworthy, and so forth. It would be based on the case and the criminal. It will take time to examine the case and everything else, but it will be the best for us and our country.
Chapman, Steve. Editorial. ProCon.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.
“Felon Voting” [“Should felons be allowed to vote?”]. ProCon.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.
Washington Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2006.