Should Felons be Allowed to Vote?

Voter disenfranchisement laws are statutes that suppress the voting rights of reformed felons and individuals on parole or probation, often varying according to state legislature. As America’s rate of incarceration swells, augmented by the prevalence of police forces emboldened by remarks sanctioning police brutality by the president, the rate of voter suppression expands. 

According to “The Sentencing Project,” an advocacy group regarding voter disenfranchisement and the criminal justice system, “1 of every 40 adults – is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.” However, is the judgement of the felon to be trusted? Haven’t they made the poor decision to commit and be sentenced for a crime? On another hand, aren’t they expressing their willingness to rejoin society as better and reformed individuals by attempting to vote? Didn’t we, without the assistance of “uneducated” and “lawless” criminals, but rather, a flawed system of democracy titled the “Electoral College,” elect a president whose platform ran solely upon racism, prejudice, and uncensored gestures towards a greater and whiter America? Yes, ex-felons should be stripped of several privileges, such as the right to own a gun, but their inalienable rights to participate in the democracy as an American citizen? Reformed felons have earned our respect, having been subjected to America’s often abusive prison system and emerging with the pure intention of exercising their right to vote. It was not their suppressed votes that granted an ill-equipped reality TV star a seat in the white house, thereby eliminating them from the equation of whose judgment we should truly question. The resolve of reformed felons to re-enter society as opposed to silently withdrawing into their communities and remaining an underrepresented faction, is honorable and they should be recognized as such. 

Furthermore, voter disenfranchisement laws particularly suppress the voting rights of minority felons. “The Sentencing Project” goes on to state that, “1 of every 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised.” Unfortunately, yet predictably, America’s tendency to withhold the rights of its citizens, predominantly those seen as “other,” is a familiar concept prevalent throughout our history. Alluding to America’s strained relationship with race relations and its impact upon politics and public policy, The Sentencing Project determines that felon disenfranchisement laws were created in anticipation of the 15th Amendment, in which African Americans were granted the right to vote. 

By refusing to allow automatic restoration of voting rights to all reformed felons in every state, we perpetuate a history of voter disenfranchisement. Moreover, we perpetuate a system that continues to disenfranchise and alienate minorities from society in particular. It is their right to be enfranchised-- to vote and partake in the activities of civil society. These reformed individuals are struggling to regain a right directly related to the very democracy America prides itself of. It is up to citizens nationwide to aid these prospective voters in their struggle to reach the polls.  

Ballot Manipulation and the “Menace of Negro Domination”: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850–2002

Citizens continue to debate over whether felons should have their voter rights automatically restored once their sentences are completed.