Should felons be permitted to vote while in prison?
Mandeep Dhami, PhD, Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology, stated in her Dec. 2005 article "Prisoner Disenfranchisement Policy: A Threat to Democracy?," published in the Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy :
"[T]he argument that allowing prisoners to vote would be costly and impractical is ethically unjustifiable. Similarly, the fact that prisoners lose many freedoms does not imply they should lose all their civil rights.
Denying prisoners the right to vote is likely to undermine respect for the rule of law since citizens who cannot participate in the making of laws will probably not recognize their authority. Allowing prisoners to vote, by contrast, may strengthen their social ties and commitment to the common good, thus promoting legally responsible participation in civil society."
Jeff Manza, PhD, Professor of Sociology and Political Science at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University and Christopher Uggen, PhD, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, stated in their 2006 book Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy:
"Prison administrators have a responsibility to maintain a safe and orderly environment in prison, and they have a great discretion in determining which individual deprivations are necessary to meet these goals. But a series of court rulings has established that restrictions on fundamental rights must be justified, rather than imposed arbitrarily on inmates. [... authors cite Cutter v. Wilkinson (U.S. Supreme Court, 2005...] Where rights such as access to the courts or to free expression are not clearly part of the punishment or necessary for prison administration, they are generally retained by inmates.
The right to vote is potentially one such right. Limited information about prisoner voting (by absentee ballot) in Maine and Vermont, and in many other countries around the world, provides no evidence that it would create significant problems for prison officials. [...]
Because voting presents few security concerns and could be facilitated by either absentee ballots or polling places inside prisons, the question of restoring voting rights to inmates becomes a matter of choice, not necessity. From there, it is not a leap to suggest that the same logic in favor of voting rights for ex-felons and nonincarcerated felons might be extended to current inmates as well. Allowing voting provides a costless way of allowing them to practice citizenship."
Waverly Jones, the son of a murdered police officer, stated the following in a June 24, 2005 article by Michelle Chen titled "Felon Voting Rights Conflict Hits Federal Court," published in The New Standard:
"Voting is not a privilege, it is a fundamental right in any society that desires to serve the interests of its people. And to take it away because you’ve committed a crime is unjust.
It [felons voting in prison] will allow them to organize themselves in prison … to vote what is in their best interest. And I think that that will improve the quality of participation in this type of electoral system."
Jonathan Aitken, JD, a former Member of British Parliament and a convicted felon, stated in his article "Prisoners Don't Care About Their Right To Vote," published on Dec. 15, 2006 in the U.K. Telegraph:
"[P]rison is meant to be a punishment. A custodial sentence has always resulted in loss of freedom and loss of democratic rights for the duration of a prisoner's sentence. Why change that? Is there any moral imperative for such a change? [...]
The main point of a prison sentence is to show the offender and society as a whole that criminal behaviour results in loss of freedom and most of the rights that freedom offers. [...]
But whatever the circumstances in whatever the prison voting rights are bound to create tensions, dramas and probably excuses for inmate-to-inmate violence at General Election time.
Because some nations in Europe have given their prisoners voting rights, Britain should now do the same, is what the Eurojudges are really saying. Surely Britain's MPs should exercise their constitutional right and reject the ECHR's [European Court of Human Rights] advice.
Even if it would be the first time it happened that would be one 'prison escape' which majority Parliamentary and public opinion would really approve of."