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Debate: Ex-felon right to vote

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Should ex-felons have the right to vote?

Background and context

In some states, ex-felons, that is people who have served their entire sentence and, thus, theoretically, have paid their debt to society, do not have the right to vote.

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Should ex-felon's have the right to vote?

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Yes

  • Depriving ex-felons of the right to vote alienates certain minorities Ex-felons are disproportionately African American. A statistical study conducted in 2001 by Uggen and Manza found that 7 percent of African Americans in the United States were subjected tofelony disenfranchisement laws, compared to 1 percent of all other racial groups. Therefore, laws preventing them from voting are intrinsically unfair.
  • Depriving ex-felons of the right to vote gives an unfair advantage to the Republican party This is because the poor and African Americans tend to vote Democratic. It is no surprise that most of the felon disenfranchisement laws were sponsored by Republicans. In fact, in 2003, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors told the Washington Post: "As frank as I can be, we're opposed to [restoring voting rights] because felons don't tend to vote Republican." A study by Uggen and Manza found that, if felons had been allowed to vote in Florida in 2000, Al Gore would have won the vote in this state.1
  • Disenfranchisement of ex-felons amounts to an extrajudicial punishment. Once they have completed their sentence and are no longer in prison, or on probation or parole, ex-felons have paid their debt to society, as determined by a judge.
  • Disenfranchisement does not deter ex-felons from committing new crimes. It merely indicates that "they can never be full citizens again." "Nearer to Overcoming". The Economist. May 10-16, 2008, p. 35.
  • Other democratic countries do not disenfranchise ex-felons.

1. "Florida governor wins voting rights for ex-felons". Reuters. April 5, 2007 In 2007, Governor Crist, a Republican, restored the right to vote to Florida felons. "Meeting in a special session, the Florida Clemency Board agreed by a 3-1 vote to allow some 950,000 ex-felons to automatically have their civil rights restored, removing a barrier that goes back 140 years."




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No

  • By committing a very serious crime, ex-felons demonstrate a disrespect for the law. Therefore, they should have no input in determining who writes these laws.

Bill McCollum, J.D., Attorney General (R), Florida. "McCollum: Be Responsible About Felons' Rights,". Orlando Sentinel. April 1, 2007 - "The proposal to automatically restore civil rights when leaving prison would restore rights without providing a reasonable period of time to determine if felons are truly rehabilitated or still leading a life of crime."[1]


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Petition: Is a right to petition an inadequate replacement?

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Yes

That promise is largely illusory. In Virginia, for example, in 1996 and 1997 only 404 former prisoners had the right to vote reinstated - out of 200,000 ex-convicts in Virginia. The number of the disenfranchised who even apply is very small; they do not want to even admit their permanent punishment."


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No

  • Ex-felons retain the right to petition.



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Pro/con resources

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Yes

  • "Former Felons Have a Right to Vote". New York Times. October 17, 2002
  • Krajick, Kevin. "Why Can't Ex-Felons Vote?". The Washington Post. 18 Aug. 2003
  • "Nearer to Overcoming." The Economist.May 10-16, 2008.
  • Petersilia, Joan. When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Uggan, Christopher, and Jeff Manza. 2001. "The Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement Law in the United States." Washington, D.C.: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Washington, D.C. 12-14 August.




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No





See also

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