Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Get out of Jail Free vote 

No, felons shouldn't be allowed to vote. (I know Nick disagrees)

From the NYT article Michele mentioned:

The American Civil Liberties Union and several minority rights advocates filed suit yesterday, seeking to overturn a New Jersey law that prohibits convicted felons from voting after they have left prison and are serving terms of parole or probation.

"The purpose of the lawsuit is to expand democracy and expand voting rights," said Prof. Frank Askin, director of the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic and one of the lawyers who prepared the suit. "Public policy favors reintegrating ex-offenders into society, including making them full participants in civic life. We don't believe the state has any justification in denying these people the right to vote."
Not everyone has the right to vote. Those under the age of eighteen cannot vote. Neither can non-citizens, with good reasons. Children are not allowed to vote because they have not become full members of society. The same is true for non-citizens who still pledge their allegiance to a foreign state.

Ex-cons should be denied the right to vote for similar reasons. When someone is imprisoned for a crime, the state has determined that that individual is not longer fit to be part of society. Certainly, if one were not even fit to be part of society, he shouldn't have the right to determine who should make its laws. When that person is released from prison, the state is returning that individual to society, but that doesn't mean he should enjoy the full rights of citizenship. By commiting a serious crime, that person has shown that he is untrustworthy. Do you trust people who have murdered someone or embezzled millions of dollars to determine who represents you? I wouldn't.

PS Yes, I agree that not allowing felons to vote will exclude many people who have merely committed some not-too-serious crimes, like marijuana possession. But that could just as well be an argument for classifying fewer crimes as felonies.

PPS And yes, I see the irony of not allowing voting by criminals but allowing voting for criminals.
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