Monday, March 07, 2005

Should Felons be Allowed to Vote?

     George F. Will, a conservative columnist, writes in Newsweek that Democratic Senators Boxer, Clinton, and Jones are being hypocritical when they advocate allowing convicted felons to remain enfranchised. He says their law is unconstitutional because it tells states who may and may not vote (last time we trusted to states to decide on their own we had a civil war. Go figure). He suggests that their only concern is getting more Democratic votes since a large percentage of Black men are convicted felons. He says "12% of all African-American men in their 20s are incarcerated." Since Blacks tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, this would be a purely selfish ploy.
     I won't argue that point. Unlike conservative commentators, I don't pretend to know what other people are thinking at all times. I do support this legislation and here's why. Our government was formed to protect us against tyranny. It has a number of protections written into the law to prevent it from abusing our freedoms. The problem with disenfranching convicted criminals (although I agree in principle - these people obviously don't represent the cream of our society) is that it gives the government the power to decide which people elect the government. Don't like an organization's stance in your district? Get them convicted of minor crimes and prevent them from voting. For the rest of their lives.
     Maybe this isn't a likely scenario. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that people are criminals because they are convicted of criminal acts. People are convicted of criminal acts because they are criminals. Usually.


ignerens said...

I agree. There's no reason to believe that a convict should never be allowed to vote. Especially if they're allowed out of jail eventually.

Dave said...

Actually, Republicans shouldnt be against this. If my boy, Elliot Spitzer keeps up the good work, more corporate, white collar criminals will end up in prison which should add Republican votes from the prison system. Who knows, Ken Lay may be setting up a PAC from prison as we speak!

Ben said...

I think that we need something besides felonies and misdomeners (ok, that spelling sucks, sorry). Maybe have your felonies that aren't horrible (stealing a car, for instance) and allow you to vote again when you get out of ajil, and then have your violent felonies and your super-evil felonies (like mass murder and stealing $1 billion from a bunch of people, respectively). I just don't think that the mass murderers and huge white collar thieves ought to be able to vote. I think they sacrificed their right to be a part of our society. Whereas I'm not going to feel good about disenfranchising forever some kid that stole a car at 16, but later cleaned himself up and became a good person (like Ryan on The O.C.).

I definitely don't think it's a one size fits all type of problem, but whenever we open up law to subjective interpretation, we end up with the Supreme Court making all of our decisions for us.