Before being sentenced to 30 year imprisonment for marijuana cultivation and possession, I was very active in politics. I was so involved with the political process, that I was elected as a State Delegate in the 2012 Presidential Election. This happened after my arrest but before I was convicted, so I still had the right of vote.
My voting rights were removed once I was in prison. I can still vote while on parole. After I have completed my parole, I will be able to file a petition to restore my voting rights.
The rules for felons voting vary from one state to the next. Most states don’t allow felons to vote while they are in prison. Vermont and Maine are exceptions.
This topic is very important to me. After learning about the history of state voting laws that targeted felons, I discovered that most states still have voting restrictions for people who have been convicted.
Even though society is constantly evolving, discrimination against felons continues to be allowed. This is because felons believe that their opinions aren’t important or are dangerous to the election process after they have served their sentence.
This blog post will discuss:
- Why should inmates be allowed to vote?
- Why should inmates not be allowed to vote?
- Can you vote after prison?
Why inmates should be allowed to vote
Although it may sound absurd, the idea of inmates being able to vote is actually very constitutional. The idea of denying an inmate the right vote is a violation of an ideal that was very important to our founders: the concept self-government.
The drug war has caused an explosion in prison populations and has resulted in tens of thousands of felons living inside and outside prison walls. They are able to experience the terrible world of the criminal justice and prison systems in a way most people don’t. It is important to include felons and inmates in the political debate.
Our society is telling felons and prisoners that they cannot vote, it is saying that prisoners don’t belong to this country. There was a long-held notion of “civic death” that meant all rights were removed once a crime was committed.
The Supreme Court has made this possible in recent years. The Supreme Court ruled that removing citizenship from prisoners is not a penalty for a crime. Prisoners enjoy religious freedom and free speech.
Justice Earl Warren stated in Trop v. Dulles, 1958: “Citizenship does not expire upon misbehavior.”
Over 2 million Americans are currently in jails and prisons throughout the United States. And, as Corey BrettschneiderIprofessor of Political Science at Brown UniversityIpoints out, disenfranchising prisoners creates a class of people who are still subject to the laws of the United States, but they have no voice in how they are governed. It is essentially taxation with no representation.
Caste system is also created by not allowing prisoners to vote. Even though prisoners are not allowed to vote in most states, they still count towards the population. This determines the number of elected representatives in a state and their Presidential electoral votes. This is what the NAACP calls “prison-based Gerrymandering” and is very similar to the famous three-fifths clause of the Constitution.
Critics argue that allowing inmates to vote is basically letting them run the asylum. But prisoners could vote to help themselves and the prison system.
Prisoners are better equipped to deal with issues such as prisoner abuse, inhumane living circumstances, overcrowding, isolation, and substandard healthcare than anyone else. This abuse can only be stopped by years of litigation under the current system.
These issues could be resolved much faster if prisoners were allowed to vote. It also wouldn’t cost nearly as much.
Why inmates should not be able to vote
It is still popular opinion that prisoners shouldn’t be allowed to vote. This issue has not been discussed in public. Although opinions are changing about felon voting rights, nobody has ever discussed the possibility of people being allowed to vote while they are incarcerated.
Although many people are opposed to the idea of prison, the ultimate goal of the institution is to inflict punishing punishment. This is an extremely narrow view and very shortsighted. The punishment is being in prison. There is nothing more. There are worse things than losing your freedom and not being in touch with your family and friends. You don’t have to go any further.
The argument against inmates voting is that you don’t have to follow the law. This is why you shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
What if the law that you have broken is a horrible law? People with addiction issues should not be allowed to vote, especially when drug laws are enforcing millions. Because I had twelve marijuana plants in my home, I was sent to prison. The prosecution didn’t like the fact that I refused to accept his offer and fought the charges. Does this mean that I shouldn’t be allowed to vote?
Can You Vote After Prison?
There are many voting laws that apply to felons who have been released from prison. They vary by state and can range from automatic reinstatement to lifetime bans depending on the crime.
It is difficult to determine the exact number of convicted felons within the country. Sarah K.S. conducted one study. Shannon, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Georgia estimated that approximately 8% of American adults had a conviction for felony in 2010.
This is a huge number of people that should be kept out of the democratic process. They are often banned because of one mistake or a personal decision that is not in line with state law.
What point did felons pay their debt society? After serving their sentence, why can’t felons be considered “normal” citizens? Are you a felon who should be allowed to vote?