In most states (see a map of states depicting voter restrictions for felons), if you are convicted of a felony, you lose your right to vote or face steep obstacles to have the “right” re-enfranchised.
The number of incarcerated felons and those who have been released from prisons who have lost their power to vote are significant: Estimations place the number approximately at 6.1 million—that’s “about 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting-age population—1 of every 40 adults,” the Lowdown has reported, quoting recent analysis by the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice reform group.
And, as the Guardian noted, “organizations like Dream Defenders and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition canvassed to pass Amendment Four, re-enfranchising people with felony convictions successfully. This was a huge win for 1 million people but excluded those with sexual assault or murder convictions. Unfortunately, thousands of Floridians are saddled with criminal legal debt, fines, and fees to pay before they can re-exercise their right to vote”.
OUR FREE OPINION
Bernie Sanders has recently announced that he believes all prisoners, and ex-felons, should be allowed to vote and he doesn’t draw any distinctions between the type of crime they were convicted for. Of course, critics are screaming it would be absurd to permit pedophiles, terrorists, and murders to vote. They argue that the criminal has broken his or her social contract with fellow Americans and has forfeited his voting rights.
The right to vote is a significant part of the founding of America. The opportunity for citizens to choose who represents them in government represents everything that a democracy aspires to be. These ideals are not reflected in the Constitution by an absolute right to vote. Instead, state governments can enact their own voting laws, and they can vary drastically. However, the federal government has specific, limited voting rights laws to help preserve and protect this essential right. Source: Findlaw
Two significant sources of federal voting rights laws are contained in Title I of the Civil Rights Act requires the equal application of voter registration requirements, voting rules, and procedures. When it was enacted in 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became the primary source of law for federal voting laws.
Some argue that all felons, who are American citizens, should have the federal right to vote in their state and federal election matters regardless of the nature of their crime. They opine that laws already in place (see the voting rights act above) deal with age and competency requirements. The voting results could be tallied in the same way absentee ballots are.
Another question is whether such a “federal” right should attach after the defendant has served their sentence—including conditional release or so-called “parole terms.
We think the better approach is that the entire sentence should be satisfied before a felon is deemed to have a federal right to vote without facing unjust obstacles. However, we would leave it to the states to provide greater civil rights protection for the prisoners including the right to vote while serving a sentence.