Last updated on: 6/30/2008 10:16:00 AM PST
Should Felons Be Allowed to Vote?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
For more information visit Felon Voting ProCon.org that examines the question "Should felons be allowed to vote?"
Anthony D. Romero, JD, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote in the forward to the ACLU's May 2006 report "Out of Step with the World: An Analysis of Felony Disfranchisement in the U.S. and Other Democracies":
"American disfranchisement policies bar over 5 million U.S. citizens - many of whom have fully served their sentences - from the polls in nearly all 50 states. This nation that prides itself on free and fair elections and voting shuts out more citizens from the democratic process than any other nation in the world...
As President Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address, 'America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.' We agree."
May 2006 - Anthony D. Romero, JD
Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona, stated in the May 31, 2007 ACLU press release "ACLU Files Lawsuit to Restore Right to Vote for Former Felons in Arizona":
"Citizens should never be stripped of their basic rights, and the right to vote is as fundamental a right as there is in a democracy. By stripping former felons of their voting rights, our government is shutting them out of American political life and reducing their prospects for successful rehabilitation into our communities. And that hurts us all."
May 31, 2007 - Alessandra Soler Meetze
The Brennan Center for Justice, stated in the Oct. 2006 policy brief "Restoring Voting Rights to People With Criminal Convictions" that:
"Restoring the right to vote helps reintegrate people with criminal records into society and by increasing voter participation, strengthens democracy. Voting is integral to the fabric of our democracy -- permanently disenfranchised Americans can hardly feel a part of the process. Restoration of voting rights helps people with criminal records become productive members of society and strengthens our institutions by increasing participation in the democratic process."
Oct. 2006 - Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law
Steve Chapman, Columnist and Editorial Writer for the Chicago Tribune, wrote in an Aug. 15, 2006 article, "Too Many Ex-Convicts Aren't Able to Vote," published in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:
"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 or their right not to have soldiers quartered in their homes in time of war. But in many places, the assumption is that 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."
Aug. 15, 2006 - Steve Chapman
The Sentencing Project published an Oct. 1998 report, "Losing The Vote - The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States," which stated:
"Felony voting restrictions in the U.S. are political anachronisms reflecting values incompatible with modern democratic principles... [These laws] arbitrarily deny convicted offenders the ability to vote... they create political 'outcasts' from taxpaying, law-abiding citizens who are ex-offenders, they distort the country's electoral process and they diminish the black vote, countering decades of voting rights gains.
Given the major impact of felony disenfranchisement laws on the voting population, and in particular their strikingly disproportionate impact on African Americans, policymakers should consider alternative policies that will better protect voting rights without injury to legitimate state criminal justice interests. We believe the best course of action would be to remove conviction-based restrictions on voting rights."
Oct. 1998 - Sentencing Project
Bill McCollum, JD, Attorney General of Florida, stated in an Apr. 2, 2007 article, "Felons Don't Merit Automatic Rights," published in the St. Petersburg Times:
"States have enacted laws to take away certain rights of those who commit crimes, reasoning that a person who breaks the law should not make the law.
As a matter of justice, respect for crime victims and public safety, Florida takes away the rights of convicted felons to vote, sit on a jury, or engage in a state-licensed occupation...
The high repeat offender rate in Florida is the central issue in this debate. The revolving door effect of restoring felons' rights only then to revoke them due to a new criminal offense would diminish the integrity of our democratic government and the rule of law."
Apr. 2, 2007 - Bill McCollum, JD
Edward Feser, PhD, Teacher of Philosophy at Pasadena City College, wrote in "Should Felons Vote?," published in the Spring 2005 City Journal, that:
"The claim that disenfranchising felons is wrong because the right to vote is basic an inalienable... is no more convincing. Obviously the right is not basic and inalienable in any legal sense, since the laws banning murderers, thieves, and other wrongdoers from voting have stood for a long time...
If the right to vote is as precious as felon advocates claim... we should expect people to uphold at least some minimum moral standards in order to keep it -- such as refraining from violating their fellow voters' own inalienable rights."
Spring 2005 - Edward Feser, PhD
Roger Clegg, JD, President and General Counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, wrote in "Perps and Politics - Why Felons Can't Vote," published in the Oct. 18, 2004 National Review:
"Individuals who have shown they are unwilling to follow the law cannot claim the right to make laws for the rest of us. We don't let everyone vote - not children, for instance, or noncitizens, or the mentally incompetent. We have certain minimum standards of trustworthiness before we let people participate in the serious business of self-government, and people who commit serious crimes don't meet those standards."
Oct. 18, 2004 - Roger Clegg, JD
Tucker Carlson, MSNBC News Commentator, said on June 26, 2006 during an episode of "The Situation with Tucker Carlson":
"Now why would we, as citizens, as non-felon citizens, want felons helping to pick our representatives.
If you're a convicted felon, convicted of a violent crime, you have bad judgment. Why do we want people with that judgment picking our representatives?"
June 26, 2006 - Tucker Carlson
Lowell Ponte, PhD, Contributing Editor at the Front Page Mag website, wrote in a July 18, 2003 article, "Jesse Jackson: A Real Con Man":
"The debate over felon voting rights raises a host of issues. Should we assume that outlaws should have no voice in making law? Or that today's criminal, after years in prison, cannot mature into a responsible citizen who deserves to regain an equal voice at the ballot box in our democratic republic? Are the most serious criminals – felons – inclined to think like criminals for their entire lives? Some critics would say that those who vote for a political party that at gunpoint takes the earnings of productive citizens and transfers that wealth to buy the votes of unproductive welfare cheats are not significantly different from being thieves themselves...
But, as I sometimes ask liberal callers to my radio show, if you believe voting rights should be restored to felons who have 'paid their debt to society,' will you not also restore to them their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms? No, reply liberals, because even the tiniest crime committed in one's youth should forever end your right to buy, own or carry a firearm. But then why should it not also end your right to vote to use state power against millions of people?"
July 18, 2003 - Lowell Ponte, PhD