Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 17, 2005

Clinton calls for voting rights for felons

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:57 pm

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has proposed allowing convicted felons to vote. She was joined at the press conference where she proposed this by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), as well as Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH).

I wonder what this says about (a) what these politicians think of their supporters, and (b) their positions on crime.

Unless they can articulate some reason why it is immoral to deny the vote to someone who (say) robs a bank, we can only conclude that (a) they think convicted felons are more likely to vote for them than for their opponents, and (b) once they add felons to their constituent base, they are less likely to support legislation that is “tough on crime,” since that would alienate some of their supporters.

Given that most (all?) of their current supporters are non-felons and are potential victims of felons, I can’t imagine how they think this will be a winning issue.

8 Responses to “Clinton calls for voting rights for felons”

  1. Gary Says:

    Seems about right. Who else besides felons, the immoral and corrupt will vote for either Clinton?

  2. Different River Says:

    Well, if only “felons, the immoral and corrupt” would vote for Clinton, she’d never have been elected in the first place. Unless there are a lot more of those people than I thought.

  3. Dave Schuler Says:

    It’s a more complicated issue than may appear at first glance. There’s a large number of African American men with felony convictions for possession of crack cocaine. Simple possession. It’s an offense but is it an offense that deserves permanent disenfranchisement?

  4. Kim Scarborough Says:

    I think the problem is permanent disenfranchisement. I don’t have a problem with denying felons the right to vote, but maybe they could get it back, say, 20 years after being released from prison. Usually the stories trotted out to support enfranchisement of felons will be some guy who robbed a liquor store when he was 19, served a few years, got out and reformed and became a good citizen. It seems silly to still not let somebody like that vote when he’s 50 years old.

  5. Different River Says:

    I basically agree with Kim Scarborough on this. However, the article doesn’t mention that the proposal involves any waiting period to see if the felon has reformed. It does suggest that they would have to wait until they get out of jail, but that’s not quite the same thing.

  6. Denise M. Sadler Says:

    With the population of convicted felons at more than 13 million and growing, the country has no choice but to revisit laws that strip people of the right to vote while permanently consigning them to the margins of society. The treatment of former felons in the electoral system cries out for reform. The cleanest and the fairest approach would be simply to remove the prohibitions on felon voting. During his January state of the union address, President Bush announced a new national commitment to helping prisoners re-enter society. Denying them the right to vote belies this commitment (New York Times, 2004
    The stigma of being a felon is difficult enough with limited jobs and opportunities. Shouldn’t they be allowed to vote on policies that could and
    will affect them? Restoring the rights to felons could prove to be beneficial because it would help ex-felons to feel like an “ex” felon with restored rights and they also would feel like a “complete” citizen again
    All too often we vote and don’t know who or what we are voting for, or we simply vote on name recognition alone. Shouldn’t those who have been part of the system be allowed to make choices, because they often know who or what they are voting for or against? Judges are so afraid that felons are going to vote them out, that they tend to forget about those that they helped that may want to vote in their favor because they feel that they were fair. In addition, we tend to think of felons as drug dealers, murderers or rapists; but, what about the mother who was convicted assault because she cut her abusive boyfriend of years in the face to protect herself or white-collar criminals such as Martha Stewart? Aren’t the criminals that are real threat to society in jail for life or on death row? If you’re released from jail, whether it be Judicial release, probation, PRC (post-release control), or parole, isn’t that the Courts way of saying “we’re giving you a chance to be part of society again, don’t mess up or you’re going back”. Or even the people that have completed their probation, PRC, or parole.
    Restoring the rights to felons could prove to be beneficial because it would help ex-felons to feel like an “ex” felon with restored rights and they also would feel like a “complete” citizen again. The stigma of being a felon is difficult enough with limited jobs and opportunities. Shouldn’t they be allowed to vote on policies that could and will affect them?
    Working in the justice system, I knew that Ohio allowed felons to vote. However, I had no idea of the voting laws of the other states. Nor did I realize how many Americans that aren’t allowed to vote! And if you combine this with the number of people who don’t vote, for whatever reason, the way our system works (or don’t work) starts to make sense. It makes sense in that you have a few people that are really deciding for all people the legislatures of the country, the states, and the cities. It’s unfortunate that all too few Americans know the importance of not only voting, but knowing what and who you are voting for. I think that if more of us realized this, then more of us would push for the end of felony disenfranchisement simply because all citizens should vote.

  7. Terry Kreps Jr. Says:

    I am a convicted felon. I was convicted of a non aggravated felony in 2001. I stole money from an a.t.m. machine (access device fraud). I took 500 dollars from two a.t.m. machines. If I had taken out 499 dollars the felonies would have become misdemoners. I am not allowed to vote, join the military, get fair treatment when it comes to jobs Etc., because of 1 dollar. Yes, I made the mistake and trust me I am very sorry for it but for 1 dollar, don’t you think it is time for socity to wake up. Jesus says to forgive, what are you going to do?

  8. Different River Says:

    Terry: I would probably be in favor of a law that restores all your rights after you serve your punishment (whether it be prison, probation, restitution, whatever), and then go for some number of years without any other convictions. I suspect you would agree that this is reasonable.

    Unfortunately, that’s not one of the options presented. Most states take away your voting rights (and some other rights, such as gun ownership) permanently; the current proposal is to allow even recent convicts to vote — perhaps even while they are still in jail. And of course, this would apply to all felons, even violent felons. Should a murderer be able to vote, from prison, for a candidate who has the power to “pay” for his vote with a pardon?

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