Video exploring critical thinking and how it leads to great citizen involvement
Last updated on: 4/5/2017 11:16:42 AM PST

Should Felons Who Have Completed Their Sentence (Incarceration, Probation, and Parole) Be Allowed to Vote?


PRO (yes) CON (no)
Kwame Akosah, JD, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, stated the following in a Mar. 4, 2017 article "Restore Ex-Felons’ Voting Rights — It’s the Right Thing," available on the Miami Herald website:
"Over the past two decades, states across the country have made significant progress scaling back archaic laws that collectively deny voting rights to millions of Americans with criminal convictions in their past. But Florida is not one of them: The state has a 150-year-old law that bans people from voting for life if they have a conviction.

Imagine if nearly every adult citizen living in Miami-Dade County lost their right to vote. By the numbers, that is the reality in Florida. According to estimates from the Sentencing Project, nearly 1.5 million citizens across Florida have permanently lost the right to vote even though they have fully completed their sentences…

[V]oters should consider the importance of a second chance to someone who has committed a crime in his or her past, but is now part of the community and trying to care for themselves and their families just like everyone else. It is hard to do that without a voice in our government."

Mar. 4, 2017 - Kwame Akosah, JD 

Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, stated the following in his July 14, 2015 speech "Remarks by the President at the NAACP Conference," available at whitehouse.gov:
"[O]n Thursday, I will be the first sitting President to visit a federal prison.  And I'm going to shine a spotlight on this issue, because while the people in our prisons have made some mistakes - and sometimes big mistakes - they are also Americans, and we have to make sure that as they do their time and pay back their debt to society that we are increasing the possibility that they can turn their lives around... if folks have served their time, and they've reentered society, they should be able to vote."

July 14, 2015 - Barack Obama, JD 

Eric H. Holder, JD, US Attorney General, stated the following in his Feb. 11, 2014 speech "Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks on Criminal Justice Reform at Georgetown University Law Center," available at www.justice.gov:
"In many states, felony disenfranchisement laws are still on the books. And the current scope of these policies is not only too significant to ignore – it is also too unjust to tolerate...

Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans – 5.8 million of our fellow citizens – are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions. That’s more than the individual populations of 31 U.S. states. And although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable...

It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values. These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed. And so today, I call upon state leaders and other elected officials across the country to pass clear and consistent reforms to restore the voting rights of all who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation, and paid their fines."

Feb. 11, 2014 - Eric H. Holder, JD 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated the following on its webpage "Voting Rights," available at aclu.org (accessed Mar. 23, 2017):
"The ACLU also pushes to repeal Jim Crow-era laws that take away the rights of citizens with criminal convictions...

Dating back to the Jim Crow era, a patchwork of state felony disfranchisement laws, which vary in severity from state to state, prevent approximately 5.85 million Americans with felony and, in several states, misdemeanor convictions from voting. Confusion about and misapplication of these laws also de facto disenfranchise countless other Americans.

Many disenfranchised citizens live in Florida, Iowa, or Kentucky, the three states with extreme policies of disenfranchising anyone with a felony conviction for life. These states are among those that also disproportionately suppress the voting rights of black people. In Florida and Kentucky, approximately one in five black citizens is disenfranchised due to a prior conviction. In Iowa, the longstanding system of disenfranchisement, paired with the worst disproportionate incarceration rate of black people in the nation, resulted in the disenfranchisement of an estimated one in four voting-age black men by 2005."

Mar. 23, 2017 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 

Jamin Raskin, JD, Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Government Program at the Washington College of Law at American University, stated the following in his Spring 2005 article "Lawful Disenfranchisement: America’s Structural Democracy Deficit," published in Human Rights Magazine:
"Felon disenfranchisement is obviously not a strategy of penal deterrence, for it deters no one; or individual rehabilitation, for it clearly educates and reforms no one; or even meaningful punishment, as it is not part of sentencing but is simply imposed on all convicts, regardless of the character of their offense. Rather, it is a strategy of mass electoral suppression, a point that becomes especially vivid when we consider that 1.7 million former offenders have been permanently disenfranchised in eight states, disproportionately in the Deep South."

Spring 2005 - Jamin Raskin, JD 

Marc Mauer, MSW, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, stated the following in his Feb. 11, 2014 article "Response by The Sentencing Project to AG Holder's Call for Felony Disenfranchisement Reform," available at sentencingproject.org:
"A half century after passage of the Voting Rights Act nearly six million Americans are prohibited from voting due to antiquated laws that are anathema to a democratic society. The racial disparities that plague the criminal justice system are transformed into restrictions on voting that dilute the political power of communities of color. Just as the use of incarceration in the United States is extreme by the norms of industrialized nations, so too are our felony disenfranchisement policies...

Disenfranchisement laws also establish barriers to reentry from prison. By sending a message of ‘second class citizenship,’ these policies work against the goal of integrating citizens back into the community and are counterproductive for public safety goals."

Feb. 11, 2014 - Marc Mauer, MSW 

Jeff Manza, PhD, Professor of Sociology at New York University, and Christopher Uggen, PhD, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, stated the following in their 2006 book Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy:
"In the United States today, by far the largest group of citizens who are denied the right to vote are those who have received a felony conviction... The disenfranchisement of such a large group of felons, and former felons, from participation in democratic elections threatens the health of American democracy in a number of ways...

While states have legitimate reasons to compel felons to make restitution to their victims, and to punish recidivists or violent offenders more harshly than others, there are no logical reasons for imposing disenfranchisement in such cases."

2006 - Jeff Manza, PhD 
Christopher Uggen, PhD 

S. David Mitchell, JD, Scholar in Residence at the University of Colorado Department of Sociology, stated the following in his Dec. 2004 article "The New Invisible Man: Felon Disenfranchisement Laws Harm Communities," published in Bad Subjects:
"Felon disenfranchisement laws violate the tenets of criminal law theory, and undermine citizenship for the individual ex-felon and the communities to which ex-felons belong...

To impose a permanent ban or to require an additional waiting period on the quintessential element of citizenship, the right to vote, is to deny that which is given by birth or achieved by naturalization — citizenship. The right to vote has been jealously guarded since the founding of the United States.

It has taken constitutional amendments and legislative acts for all groups to be granted the right to vote, and thereby recognized as full citizenships. Legally, African-Americans have achieved the status of citizen. Practically, African-Americans have to continue to fight obstacles set up to deny their citizenship. Historically, in a number of United States' jurisdictions, African-Americans have had to challenge poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, whites-only primaries, and felon disenfranchisement laws, all designed to prohibit them from voting and thus negate their citizenship.

All of the other forms of disenfranchisement have fallen by the wayside, save one — felon disenfranchisement laws."

Dec. 2004 - S. David Mitchell, JD 

Roger Clegg, JD, President and General Counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, stated the following in his Mar. 9, 2017 article "Ironic but Illustrative," available on the National Review website:
"[I]t makes perfect sense to take away certain rights from felons, at least until they have served their sentences in full and then shown they have turned over a new leaf by going some period of time without committing a new crime...

We don’t let everyone vote, because there are certain minimum, objective standards — of responsibility, trustworthiness, and commitment to our laws — that we require of people before they can be entrusted with a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government. Children, noncitizens, the mentally incompetent, and those who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens don’t meet those standards."

Mar. 9, 2017 - Roger Clegg, JD 

Hans A. von Spakovsky, JD, Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, stated the following in his Mar. 15, 2013, article "Ex-Cons Should Prove they Deserve the Right to Vote," available at heritage.org:
"The proposal to automatically restore felons' right to vote as soon as they have completed their sentences is shortsighted and bad public policy. When presented as a measure of compassion and justice, it is also hypocritical, as automatic restoration is not in the best interests of felons or the general public…

Several years ago, liberal groups unsuccessfully sued Florida, claiming that the state's rules were unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act. In Johnson v. Bush, a federal appeals court dismissed those claims, noting that 'criminal disenfranchisement provisions have existed as a punitive device' throughout history.

People truly concerned with the well-being of felons and their successful reintegration into the civil society would want the type of system Florida has. Felons have, by definition, knowingly and intentionally violated the laws of society. A five- or seven-year waiting period gives felons the opportunity — and an incentive — to prove they are deserving of exercising their right to vote."

Mar. 15, 2013 - Hans A. von Spakovsky, JD 

Pam Bondi, JD, Florida Attorney General, stated the following in her Mar. 16, 2011 article "Clemency Shift Upholds Rule of Law," available at tampabay.com:
"[E]very felony is a serious breach of the bonds that unite our society. Rather than obligate the government to initiate the restoration process, it is reasonable to require felons to ask to have their rights restored. Also, felons should demonstrate rehabilitation by living crime-free during a waiting period after the completion of their sentences...

[F]elons earned the designation of convicted felon by breaking the law, so they should also earn the restoration of civil rights by abiding by the law and applying... The 'paid their debt' argument also wrongly suggests that completion of a criminal sentence signals rehabilitation."

Mar. 16, 2011 - Pam Bondi, JD 

Bill McCollum, JD, then Florida Attorney General, stated the following in his Apr. 1, 2007 article "McCollum: Be Responsible About Felons' Rights," published in the Orlando Sentinel:
"The campaign to automatically restore civil rights to nearly all felons upon release from prison, with no waiting period and no hearing to determine if those felons will go right back to a life of crime, is reckless and irresponsible...

The revolving-door effect of restoring felons' rights only then to revoke them due to a new criminal offense would diminish the integrity of our democratic government and the rule of law. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, nearly 40 percent of offenders commit another crime within three years of release and 45 percent do so within five years...

Rather than automatically restore rights to violent repeat offenders, we should ensure fairness in the clemency process by immediately eliminating the backlog, as I previously proposed. But for Florida's serious career criminals, this motto ought to apply: A person who breaks the law should not make the law."

Apr. 1, 2007 - Bill McCollum, JD 

The Washington Times stated in its Nov. 26, 2007 editorial "Another No Vote on Felons," published in the Washington Times:
"Even in nearby Massachusetts, no stranger to progressivism, voters in 2000 supported a constitutional amendment to bar inmates from voting. The reason is clear: Most people think perpetrators of serious crimes have violated the public trust and cannot be permitted to help determine the future of the communities they harmed...

[F]or the time being, the voters' good sense about the possible scenarios - the advent of new constituencies of prisoners whom politicians court for votes, for instance - still prevails. As does the sense that most of the time, in most of the country, serious lawbreakers should not help elect the country's lawmakers."

Nov. 26, 2007 - Washington Times 

Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., JD, then Governor of Maryland, was quoted as stating the following in a Feb. 15, 2006 article "Ehrlich to Veto Bill on Felons," published in the Washington Times:
"I don't think you reward the franchise to those who commit the most horrific crimes. Full restoration of every right is inappropriate."

Feb. 15, 2006 - Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., JD 

George Brooks, JD, attorney, stated the following in his Sep. 2005 article "Felon Disenfranchisement: Law, History, Policy, and Politics," published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal:
"Felon disenfranchisement is plainly constitutional and consistent with the intent of the framers of both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. It is a practice with deep roots in history that continues to be widely utilized today."

Sep. 2005 - George Brooks, JD 

Tucker Carlson, Host, MSNBC Tucker show, stated the following during a June 26, 2006 episode of the Tucker show:
"Now why would we, as citizens, as non-felon citizens, want felons helping to pick our representatives. If you're a convicted felon, convicted of a violent crime, you have bad judgment. Why do we want people with that judgment picking our representatives?"

June 26, 2006 - Tucker Carlson 

The Daily Leader stated the following in an Oct. 23, 2006 editorial "Voting Should be Reserved for Law-Abiding Citizens," available at dailyleader.com:
"Although far too few people exercise it, voting is a sacred right belonging to all law-abiding citizens. When citizens become no longer law-abiding, it is necessary to take their voting rights away...

Why should a convicted felon - who has broken at least one law serious enough to warrant the loss of his voting rights - have an easy path to voting rights restoration?"

Oct. 23, 2006 - Daily Leader 

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