The issue of voting rights for felons is not a new issue. However, this is one which has been discussed in the 2016 election. Most notably, Hillary Clinton has supported allowing felons to vote. In July 2016, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Terry McAuliffe cannot restore voting rights to Virginian felons. Extended voting to every last citizen sounds good, right? All citizens must have a voice in how our country is governed, right? I have read Facebook posts and mainstream news columns speaking for and against this issue. Much of what I have read argues for the position that all citizens ages eighteen or older must have the right to vote, across the board. I respect these opinions, but I believe they have not taken into account exactly what this would spell for the nation.
Before I discuss the problems, let’s look at felons in general. A felony in the United States is a violent crime that carries more weight than a misdemeanor. We aren’t talking about someone committing petty theft or drunk driving. Felonies include homicide and kidnapping. The very murder or stealing of another human being are the crimes committed by felons. In my mind, felons present a danger to the fabric of our government: laws. Yet far more severe, felons are a danger to innocent citizens. The very reason we have laws is to keep the vices of mankind in check.
With that said, what would it mean if felons were given the privilege of voting (and yes, it is a privilege)? I believe the most obvious consequence would be that we are allowing murderers and kidnappers have a say in how we govern our nation. If a man or woman commits a violent crime and breaks our laws in the process, why should they be allowed to have a say in the making of the laws? If you are willing to break the law, you have lost the privilege of voting on the laws or the lawmakers. In my mind, this is called common sense; a lawbreaker cannot vote on laws. On a personal level, if a criminal murdered your little brother or sister, would you be ok with them voting on the same ballot as you?
However, I will readily admit that people can change. I know of people who have pulled themselves from a life of violent crimes and turned themselves into law-abiding citizens. In these cases, I fully support a way for felons to redeem themselves and restore their right to vote. This could come in many different forms which the legislative branch would have to debate and decide on. Community service is commonly used in prisoner rehabilitation, though I believe that has its problems (I won’t go into that in this particular article). According to ProCon.org, 10 states have laws in place which state a felon may permanently lose their voting rights. As you can tell from my statements above, I would not necessarily condone these laws. Yet only two states allow unrestricted voting for felons (Maine and Vermont), giving absentee ballots to felons while still serving time in prison. The vast majority of state governments believe that there must be at least some time before voting is restored, if ever.
Another reality of felon voting is the political demographics. According to an article from the Washington Examiner, a majority of felons register to vote Democrat. To quote the article, “In New York, 61.5 percent of convicts are Democrats, just 9 percent Republican.” This is not meant as a slight on Democrats; I know too many great people who are progressives to make that connection. But the support for felon voting from Hillary Clinton could indeed be liberal propaganda. While I cannot completely judge Clinton’s motives, my guess would be that she cares more about a felon’s vote than the felon themselves. The question I would pose to Clinton: why should we not allow the overwhelming number of law-abiding citizens decide the laws without throwing in felons also? Currently, citizens can make decisions for our self-governing without adding the votes of those who have broken the laws. Let the lawful citizens cast their votes, as it’s a unique privilege, but those who break our laws have shown themselves unfit to have a say in making laws.