Ex-offenders and Federal Voting Rights


On a day when I’m already feeling happy about legislation, I’m pleased to read the New York Times editorial supporting a bill that would restore federal voting rights to ex-offenders, meaning people who have “served their time” and returned to the community. Whatever the problems may be in our criminal justice system (and they are many, particularly with regard to incarceration), the assumption is that when convicted criminals have served their sentences, the law has fulfilled its requirements as they presently exist. We want the people released from prison to integrate back into society and live responsibly, and responsible participation in society includes voting. Besides, I’ve never seen the connection between criminal conviction and voting as I might see it with, say, owning and carrying a gun. Voting does not seem to me to enhance the possibility of repeated criminal behavior.

The ban on voting does, as the editorial points out, have racist implications and, therefore, political implications, also. That’s another good reason to support the bill.