Should felons, no matter their race or crime, be granted voting rights?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent– This is a tough one for me. I firmly believe that the right to vote is one of our most sacred. While I might secretly wish that there was an intelligence test administered before the franchise was granted, the fact is that if you reach the age of 18 with a pulse, you get to register to vote…unless you commit a felony. Among the other indignities visited upon those whose life path takes an unfortunate turn into criminality is the loss of the ability to step into a voting booth and cast a ballot for whoever they think most likely to grant them a pardon.

I guess I’d feel more strongly about this issue if Americans as a whole exercised their right to vote with greater enthusiasm. Even in the most polarizing elections, anything beyond 50 percent turnout is considered remarkable. It’s obvious that a lot of those of us without felonies have begun to take our ballot privilege for granted. Maybe offering it to felons would motivate the law-abiding majority to get to the polling places for fear that they’ll find Guido and Nunzio from the local Mafia chapter being elected to the zoning board.

I’m being a bit puckish about this, but it’s not without reason. There is a tremendous variety of crimes which fall under the felony banner. Do I abhor the tax cheat who got caught as much as I do the man who took a chain saw to his family reunion? Absolutely not. However, it’s not given unto me to determine the weight and measure of anyone’s sins. So absent the ability to impose any weighting or gradation on the felons, I’ll have to agree with the current system of denying the right to vote to all felons. If your judgment is so impaired as to have fired up that chain saw, there’s not a chance in Hades I want you voting in my community.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The question of granting voting rights to felons as posed by the topic heading is misleading. Federal voting rights are automatically granted to all citizens of legal age according to the Constitution. The more accurate question is whether to remove the right to vote the moment a person is convicted of a felony. The secondary question is whether to restore those voting rights once a felon has served their sentence and been released from prison.

If we as a country are serious about the rehabilitation of criminals, then it seems that restoring voting rights to felons once they are out of prison is the proper thing to do. Ex-felons should be given the benefit of the doubt even if they are deemed likely to re-offend and end up in prison again. Innocent until proven guilty must never be ignored.

Taking away voting privileges to incarcerated felons is problematic only because we have criminalized so many behaviors that inmates who are felons constitute a sizeable minority of voting-age citizens. A government that allows felons currently in prison to vote in sizable numbers risks having politicians elected who may be sympathetic to criminals and criminal activity. This may result in public policy that does not have the best interests and safety of the general populace as a priority.

Without question, deciding to allow people to vote or not based on race is unacceptable and illegal according to the Constitution. There is no room for race bias, gender bias, ethnic bias, nationality bias, or any other condition when it comes to who may vote in elections. This country has spent most of its existence hashing through those issues until all eligible citizens are, at least on paper, allowed an unrestricted chance to vote.

Incarcerated felons should be denied their right to vote. All ex-felons, no matter their race or type of crime committed, should have their voting rights restored.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Convicted felons should not automatically be granted voting rights, and if voting rights are to be restored, it is up to the individual state legislatures to determine what constitutes the issuance of full voting rights to a convicted felon and whether he or she is eligible for restoration of those rights.

The Constitution inherently allows the states to adopt rules concerning the allowance or disallowance of voting. It is spelled out in the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution, section 2, which states that it is up to the states to decide which crimes could be grounds for disenfranchisement. In most cases, felonies are grounds for disenfranchisement. Currently, most states have either changed their laws on voting rights or have instituted laws to simplify the restorative process. Over the last eight years, state laws have continued to alternate between curtailment and restoration of voting rights.

It appears that the CNN report concerning Donald Trump’s outreach to African American Virginian voters injected an element into the picture that both relates African Americans with felonies and takes issue with restoration of the voting rights of felons. The report appears to be a questionable news ploy by the network to misconstrue what was said by Trump while making CNN appear biased in relating black voters to felons.

In Trump’s appeal to black voters, he criticized the actions of Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe’s executive order attempts to restore voting rights to felons in the state. CNN reported McAuliffe’s plan involved helping black felons who were thought to be unfairly affected by lifetime voting bans. There were no statistics in the CNN report that entailed just what percentage of African American felons would qualify for reprieves, which associated Trump’s outreach to black voters of Virginia as an overture to felons.

In late July, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled against McAuliffe’s executive order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons. The court asserted that no Virginia governor has the power to grant such pardons in relation to the Virginia Constitution. The chief justice in the case stated that never before had he seen any of the prior governors of Virginia issue such a clemency order to a class of felons without any regard to the nature and circumstances of their crimes. In spite of the ruling, McAuliffe has vowed to sign direct orders to restore the voting rights of those convicted and he recently did so with 13,000 felons in defiance of the court’s ruling. His predecessor, Tim Kaine thought about the same type of executive order for voting rights restoration but was advised that he could not issue such an order.

In a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 (Alexander v Mineta), the court confirmed a district court’s interpretation that the Constitution “does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote, and the state legislatures wield the power to decide who is qualified.” It is clear that the ruling is defining the vote as a privilege (rather than an inherent right) that is either given or withheld by state or local governments. The Constitution actually mentions voting rights a number of times but mostly in the sense of protecting them. Issuance of voting rights is not given on a whole scale basis to anyone and everyone.

No convicted felon, in spite of his or her race, should be allowed to vote until he or she has gone through the restorative or petition process of their respective state, or has been totally vindicated of a felony-related crime. Large numbers of convicted felons should not be given blanket amnesties or be allowed to subvert the law in order to vote. No candidate, governor or other elected official should be permitted to manipulate an election by recruiting unqualified voters under the guise of leniency towards criminals and justice for black criminals. Restoration should be on a case by case basis that is subject to the laws of the state.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Frankly, I’m pretty clear on where I stand concerning voting. The superior authority was installed for various reasons, but personally, I’d never ever decide to cast a vote. I believe and trust in a higher form of governance. Voting, that isn’t happening.

However, to indulge you, I will mention that we all, as human beings, have the right to vote. To me, that’s a clear indication that we can opt to vote or not. The same applies to felons and criminals. Aren’t they humans, as well? Then, would not the law apply to these individuals?

What if that felon is of a different race? Should they be allowed to vote? It depends. Are they citizens of a particular country? Allow them the rights to vote in that country. However, unless they’re citizens, maybe extending to them the right to vote is not such a good idea. Some countries have laws in place that allow these individuals, like emigrants to vote, but it’s only after acceptance in a country. The way I see it, if a person who happens to be a felon in America, but is not an American citizen, that person should not be given voting privileges.

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