Felony disenfranchisement: keeping the ballot away

felonvotingThe Significant Other of a good friend of mine wrote on Facebook:

I think that Felony Disenfranchisement should be kept in place forever. Our Supreme Court ruled the that the 14th Amendment gives all states the right for deny ex-convicts to vote..To put it simply “” If you broke our laws and were not able to follow our laws”,,””I for one ,,do not want to give you the “”right”” to elect those who make our laws “GET IT” ????

I was sorely tempted to let it go, but there was something about “GET IT” ????” that just pushed a button.

I replied: “That notion suggests that there is no forgiveness, no chance at redemption. Current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society, essentially facilitating recidivism. I TOTALLY disagree.”

Specifically, there are several reasons why disenfranchising felons who have served their time is a very bad idea:

The United States, while slow to embrace a more universal suffrage, nevertheless has a history of correcting the limits on the vote. The 15th Amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Amendment 24: notes that voting “shall not be denied or abridged.. by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” Of course the 19th Amendment allowed women the right to vote, and the 26th, the right for 18-year-olds.

There are mountains of data that confirm that conviction and sentencing people for the same crime is influenced by class/wealth, and yes, race and ethnicity. If Person A gets off with a misdemeanor, and Person B is slammed with a felony, that’s hardly equal protection under the law. To further the injustice after prison is piling on.

It is also well-documented that the United States has far more people in prison than any country in the world, far more than when Richardson v. Ramirez (1974) was decided in the SCOTUS. The prison population has grown fourfold in the past four decades, while the nation’s population has increased by less than 50% in that period.

And why is that? Could it be the over policing of America, where your daily actions are being incrementally criminalized?

Those convicted of crimes often come back to a community where it is difficult to reintegrate into society. Denying people that right to vote further isolates those individuals.

Finally, and I bring this up because the individual I quoted above has often pointed to a personal Christian faith, it seems counterintuitive to me that if Jesus forgave our sins that we not forgive the sins of others.

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