As drug-related convictions are becoming more and more common, the lower class, which typically is involved in such convictions, becomes less represented in elections because they are not allowed to vote (Democratic Contraction? Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States). Disenfranchisement is silencing voices that have a right to be heard. Felon disenfranchisement would be effective if used in cases of serious crimes such as homicide, but for small offenses such as drug possession, it should not be used.
In 2016, about 2.5% of the adult US population, or 6.1 million potential voters, were deprived of the right to vote because of a felony conviction. (Kozlowska) A felony is defined as “a crime, typically one involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor, and usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death,” including murder, the sale or manufacture of drugs, treason, and even tax evasion. (Google) Disenfranchisement is the state of being deprived of a right or privilege, especially the right to vote. The question of whether or not ex-felons should be disenfranchised is still discussed today; some believe that ex-felons can repay their debt to society by not voting, and some, vice versa. Unfortunately,
About 6.1 million Americans convicted of a felony have been barred from voting by the law in most states (Chung 1). The condition regarded to as felon disenfranchisement is controlled by laws provided for by the individual states within the US. Unlike the states of Maine and Vermont which allow felons the right to vote while in incarceration, most other states have withdrawn the right from convicts. Ten states in the country have permanently restricted specific felons from participating in elections. With the argument that the country’s legacy in safeguarding democracy through felon disenfranchisement, opponents of the idea assert that by completing their sentences, felons have paid the debt owed to the society and should have their privileges and rights fully restored. They further assert that part of the efforts to uphold democracy is to get rid of unfair provisions such as laws advocating for felon disenfranchisement. On the other hand, proponents note that felons and ex-felons should be allowed to vote due to the expression of their poor judgment. While the debate continues to elucidate divergent views, numerous factors illustrate that felon disenfranchisement is inconsequential and does not contribute to the betterment of the country.
Felons are people who have been convicted of a felony. Felony is a crime, typically one involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor, and usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated. Vermont’s 1793 Constitution stipulates that residents can lose their right to vote only if convicted of voter fraud. In Florida, Lowa and Virginia, felons and ex-felons permanently lose their right to vote. Eleven states restrict voting even after a person has completed their prison sentence and finished probation or parole. Twenty states require completion of parole and probation before voting is allowed, and fourteen states allow felons to vote after they leave prison. In 1789, Kentucky became the first U.S. state to ban convicted criminals from voting. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that felon disenfranchisement is a violation of the Voting Rights Act in her May 4, 2006 dissenting opinion in Hayden v. Pataki. Ex-felons should be able to vote because they served their punishment and now they are out so they probably did not do anything serious like first-degree felony: murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, fraud. Second-degree felony: aggravated assault, felony assault, arson, manslaughter, possession of a controlled substance, child molestation.
The citizens of the United States of America have a long history of having to fight for their right to vote, and while women and people of color do have the right, another group of people is facing a difficult time being able to vote. This other group is the felons, but understandably so: a felon’s ability to make critical decisions for the United country is sure to be questioned. Felon disenfranchisement serves as a barrier between individuals who are qualified to vote and those who are not. The reasons that felons are not qualified to make such important decisions for Americans is that their actions show a lack of good judgement and they show a disregard for the social contract. The ignorance toward the social contract, the types of felonies committed, and the judgement that felons have is questioned, and exactly what the impact may be in regard to our society and the future of our country is explained. There should be a few exceptions, and not all felons should suffer the same fate that those who committed a serious felony do.
“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
The votes of felons are also relevant enough that if they were permitted to engage in democracy, they could change political outcomes. While disenfranchised felons only make up a little over 2% of the voting age population, their votes have been found to have enough influence to affect elections. Since those convicted of felonies are likely to be of a minority race or poor, it is likely felon disenfranchisement laws take away votes from the Democratic party and Independent votes. People of color make up roughly 60 percent of the prison population in the U.S. and make up larger proportions of the Democratic party than they do Republican or Independent (Kerby, 2012). Nearly 90% of the Republican party is white, 70% of Independent parties are
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
is one of only a few states that allow convicted felons to vote upon their release from prison
One of the more controversial debates in today’s political arena, especially around election times, is that of felon disenfranchisement. The disenfranchisement of felons, or the practice of denying felons and ex-felons the right to vote, has been in practice before the colonization of America and traces back to early England; however, it has not become so controversial and publicized until recent times. “In today’s political system, felons and ex-felons are the only competent adults that are denied the right to vote; the total of those banned to vote is approximately 4.7 million men and women, over two percent of the nation’s population” (Reiman 3).
“There is an estimated number of 5.85 million Americans who are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses.” (Uggen). Varying by state, each disenfranchisement law is different. Only 2 out of 50 U.S. states; Vermont & Maine, authorize voting from convicted felons incarcerated and liberated as shown in (Fig. 1). But of the 48 remaining states these rights are either prohibited or authorized in at least 5 years succeeding to liberation. This disenfranchisement needs to be retracted due to fact that convicted felons; incarcerated or liberated, are U.S. citizens who are guaranteed constitutional rights that should allow them as citizens to have equal opportunity in political and social
There are many ex-felon’s in past years that could not vote as stated “ Because of America’s unique rules, some 3.5-4 million citizens as of 2000 and 2004 respectively are out of prison, but not allowed to vote” (Enten 6). Millions of ex-felon citizens have been denied their right to vote, which is wrong. The good and the bad makes up the society and the world. People who committed these felonies and have paid their dues back to the society, may not be the same person they were when committed the crime. If the individual has completed their sentence, along with probation and parole, which then means they are safe to return to society and resume back to their civilized life, their right to vote should come back with it.
Should ex-felons be able to vote once they complete their sentence in prison? About 5 million people with a felony conviction can’t cast a vote in elections. In different states, there are different laws which mean some states go about felon voting differently. There are 9 states who permanently banned you from voting. People who are against ex -felons rights being restored argue no, because they feel that felons couldn’t make logic decisions before they got in prison so why would they be able to make logic decisions once they’re out. People who are for felons to be able to vote argue yes, because regardless of what they have done in their past, they’ve already paid for their crime and it is unfair. (Feaser). By law American citizens have the right to vote. Felons who have paid their debt to society by completing their sentences should have all their rights and privileges restored. By letting felons vote it will make the voting more diverse, and equal. Also allowing felons to vote will help with their transition back into society.
Felony disenfranchisement operates contrary to the goals of ensuring public safety and reducing reoffending by alienating from society those individuals that the criminal justice system is simultaneously attempting to reintegrate. Further, as the Committee has noted, state disenfranchisement laws are problematic not only due to the vast numbers of potential voters they affect, but also their disproportionate impact on racial minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics. Further, many of these laws extend punishment beyond the walls of the prison by continuing to disenfranchise individuals who are on probation, parole or have completed their full sentences. For this reason, it is particularly important that the Committee urge the United States to provide its rationale for continuing to deprive individuals with felony convictions of the right to vote after they are no longer
Although some states believe that voting is a privilege that can be taken away after intolerable behavior, ex-criminals should be given voting rights because they are heavily impacted by government decisions, the vote is consequently taken away from low income, minority factions, and the US has a historical record of disenfranchising people regarding their race, color, previous servitude, and sex, so we have reason to question the disenfranchisement of other minorities.