Last updated on: 8/6/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

Should People with Felony Convictions Automatically Regain the Right to Vote after Their Full Sentence Is Served?

PRO (yes)

Pro

Ralph Northam, MD, Governor of Virginia, as quoted by Michael Lee Pope in a Feb. 18, 2021 article, “The Strange Career of Felon Disenfranchisement,” available at connectionnewspapers.com, stated:

“Virginia is one of just a few remaining states where, if you have a felony conviction, someone has to act to restore your civil rights to vote or run for office. It’s not automatic, but it should be.”

Feb. 18, 2021

Pro

Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa (R), as quoted by German Lopez in a Sep. 18, 2020 article, “The State of Ex-Felons’ Voting Rights, Explained,” available at vox.com, stated:

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live. When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically.”

Sep. 18, 2020

Pro

Robert F. McDonnell, JD, MPP, MBA, Governor of Virginia at the time of this quote, stated in his May 29, 2013 letter outlining his policy changes, available at the Governor of Virginia’s website:

“I believe that the commission of a crime must have a tough and just consequence…

I also believe that once an offender has fully paid his debt to society, he deserves a second chance…

It is a mark of good government to restore felons’ rights and provide them the opportunity to succeed and become law-abiding citizens again…

Therefore, I am amending the criteria used to adjudicate non-violent felons applications for restoration of rights. With these changes, Virginia will have an automatic restoration of rights process.”

May 29, 2013 - Robert F. McDonnell, JD, MPP, MBA

Pro

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 the U.S. Department of Justice website:

“[F]ormerly incarcerated people continue to face significant obstacles. They are frequently deprived of opportunities they need to rebuild their lives. And in far too many places, their rights – including the single most basic right of American citizenship – the right to vote – are either abridged or denied…

In Iowa, action by the governor in 2011 caused the state to move from automatic restoration of rights – following the completion of a criminal sentence – to an arduous process that requires direct intervention by the governor himself in every individual case…

That’s moving backwards – not forward. 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

Pro

Desmond Meade, President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, stated the following in his June 21, 2013 article “Drawing a Line in Florida and Standing on the Side of Justice,” available at the Huffington Post website:

“Too often our policies are misinformed by knee-jerk condemnations of and callousness toward individuals with prior felony convictions, without considering that individuals — after making mistakes and serving their sentence — can change for the better…

The right of an American citizen to exercise arguably the most critical expression of citizenship should not be denied. Nor should the decision on whether an American citizen regains the rights to vote be left in the hands of a select few politicians whose decisions are often arbitrary and motivated by partisan politics and corporate interests…

Automatic rights restoration enhances our public safety, affirms our humanity, and promotes democracy. Standing by disfranchisement, standing on the sidelines, ignoring cries for democracy, and delaying restoration of rights will only serve to further entrench injustice.”

June 21, 2013 - Desmond Meade

CON (no)

Con

Ron DeSantis, JD, Governor of Florida (R), as quoted by Steve Bousquet in a Nov. 7, 2018 article, “Diverse Donors Fund Final Push in Campaign to Win Voting Rights for Florida Felons,” available at miamiherald.com, stated:

“I think it’s wrong to automatically restore rights to felons who’ve committed very serious crimes. I want people to be redeemed. But you’ve got to prove that you’re getting back with the law.”

Nov. 7, 2018

Con

Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, as quoted by Matt Ford in an Oct. 24, 2017 article, “The Strangest Political Attack Ad of 2017,” available at theatlantic.com. stated:

“Virginians who have paid their debt to society and are living an honest life should have their rights restored. But Ralph Northam’s policy of automatic restoration of rights for unrepentant, unreformed, violent criminals is wrong.”

Oct. 24, 2017

Con

Rick Scott, JD, Governor of Florida, wrote in his Mar. 9, 2011 statement “Governor Scott and Florida Cabinet Discuss Amended Rules of Executive Clemency,” available at the Florida Commission on Offender Review website:

“Felons seeking restoration of rights will also be required to demonstrate that they desire and deserve clemency by applying only after they have shown they are willing to abide by the law…

Restoration of civil rights will not be granted ‘automatically’ for any offenses…

The Restoration of Civil Rights can be a significant part of the rehabilitation of criminal offenders and can assist them in reentry into society. It is important that this form of clemency be granted in a deliberate, thoughtful manner that prioritizes public safety and creates incentives to avoid criminal activity.”

Mar. 9, 2011 - Rick Scott, JD

Con

Terry E. Branstad, JD, Governor of Iowa, stated the following in a Dec. 28, 2012 press release “Branstad, Reynolds Streamline Restoration of Voting Rights Application,” available at the Governor of Iowa’s website:

“When an individual commits a felony, it is fair they earn their rights back by paying restitution to their victim, court costs, and fines… Iowa has a good and fair policy on the restoration of rights for convicted felons, and to automatically restore the right to vote without requiring the completion of the responsibilities associated with the criminal conviction would damage the balance between the rights and responsibility of citizens…

Too often victims are forgotten and it is important victims of felonies and serious crimes receive their restitution… The updated process for restoration of voting rights streamlines the process for applicants while ensuring we are mindful of the victims of the crime.”

Dec. 28, 2012 - Terry E. Branstad, JD

Con

Roger Clegg, JD, President and General Counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, stated the following in a Jan. 18, 2010 article “Virginia Is Right to Limit Felons’ Voting Rights,” available at the Washington Post website:

“It makes sense to require that certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility, loyalty and trustworthiness be met before individuals are allowed to participate in the sacred enterprise of self-government. Children, illegal immigrants, the mentally incompetent and felons do not meet those standards. Put another way: If you are not willing to follow the law, you cannot demand a right to make the law for everyone else.

The right to vote can be restored, but it should be done carefully, not automatically, and on a case-by-case basis… a three-year waiting period after serving a prison term is reasonable, given that ‘two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested and one-half are re-incarcerated within three years of release from prison,’ according to a report by Harvard University’s Richard Freeman.”

Jan. 18, 2010 - Roger Clegg, JD