Voting Rights: Should convicted felons be allowed to vote?
With the general election fast approaching to decide who should take up the mantle of responsibility as President of the United States the issue of voting rights has once again popped in the medias view. Almost a century ago voting rights had to do with whether women should be allowed to vote. Sixty years ago the Civil Rights Movement moved the ball forward and wanted to enfranchise the African American population to be given equal voting rights. Four years ago we states pushing to allow only those with a valid state issued ID to vote, putting the poor and elderly in a tough spot when it came to voting. Today we see a new challenge to voting rights that has existed for more then one hundred and fifty years.
When a US citizen is convicted of a felony and serve their sentence they can again vote in elections both local and federal. However the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution allows states to decide when a crime is severe enough to stirp the right to vote away. According to the US Justice Department as of 2016 five and half million Americans cannot vote due to felony disenfranchisement. Restricting voting rights based on committed crimes varies widely among the fifty states and some are harsher then others. Of the 5.5 million Americans who cannot vote do to felony disenfranchisement close to 1.5 million live in Florida.
Can you imagine what a difference almost six million votes could make in the upcoming election? Those convicted of felony's make up two and half percent of the US population and few options to regain their rights. Florida governor Rick Scott in 2011 set forth legislation that would allow those convicted of a felony to appeal to have their voting rights restored after seven years. While it is an avenue to regain their rights it is dependent on a judges decision. After a citizens sentence is completed and served their rights should be restored.
After release a felons right to free speech, right to bear arms, right to peaceful assembly, etc. are given back. So why can the right to vote one of the most fundamental of civic duties not be depending on what state you live in. As a nation we should recognize that a person can reform themselves from their past actions. That is not to say that we should forget those crimes but it should not define a person in every aspect of their life and their actions.