In America, it is legal in some states for a felon to indefinitely lose the right to vote once they are incarcerated. Some believe this practice is necessary and that hindering these people’s constitutional right as punishment for their crimes is justified. However, this mindset needs to be challenged, and the practice needs reform. A felon’s right to vote should never be compromised. Punishment for crimes does not have to impede on one of the most prideful acts Americans can partake in.
Not all states have the same felon voting laws. According to the law, there are only two states in which a felon does not lose the right to vote at any point throughout the incarceration process. In 21 states, the right to vote is restricted while incarcerated, however the right is restored upon release. In 16 states, a felon loses the right to vote when incarcerated, and the right is not restored until the completion of any parole or probationary periods. In 11 states, felons can lose the right to vote permanently once incarcerated. These felons may restore the right with a pardon from the governor.
An article from procon.org states some popular reasons felon voting restrictions are in place, and why people support them. Some believe that hindering this right is a fair punishment for crimes that would result in an incarceration. Perhaps a felon should have to prove themselves to the public on a probationary period before being given things such as voting rights. It can be argued that people in office don’t impact those incarcerated, and that there is no point in letting felons vote. People often question the sanity and thinking skills of those currently or previously incarcerated, and if they (for lack of better words) are smart enough to be able to make a “good” vote in an election.
Prisoners do not get good food, a comfortable place to sleep, quality clothing, or any freedom or choice in their day-to-day life. Prison life is notoriously miserable, with some even arguing the conditions are too harsh, as explained in an article by Shon Hopwood on brennancenter.org (How Atrocious Prisons Conditions Make Us All Less Safe.) With terrible living conditions, the absence of choice, and restrictions from seeing family and loved ones, why should a felon also be stripped of one of the most basic and prideful acts an American can partake in?
Who has the right to decide if somebody is mentally healthy enough to vote? A crime that has no relation to a government election should not determine someone’s credibility when voting. Plenty of people outside bars whom are extremely mentally unstable vote in every election. At what point is the line drawn? Should the government require an IQ test before entry to the ballot box? Should adult taxpayers with mental handicaps be restricted from voting? A person’s mental state and capabilities do not impact their political opinions or voice. Every American voice matters.
When incarcerated, all privileges are lost and one becomes property of the government. Wouldn’t those under the direct and constant control of the government be the ones most greatly impacted by who is in office?
In 1765, the Stamp Act Congress popularized the phrase “No taxation without representation.” A phrase that is still known to even the least patriotic Americans. Those incarcerated often hold jobs ranging from things such as yard work to prepping the meals eaten by fellow inmates. These felons receive paychecks, and pay taxes accordingly. However, in 48 states, these felons hold no voice in the government.
Murderers, rapists, and drug dealers have voted in every American election since our great country was born, felons are only the ones who got caught. Voting should be a secure right for all Americans, even those in incarceration. Punishments for crimes that do not involve elections should not be punished with the restriction of voice in the country.