Commit a Crime, No Voting Rights For You Ever Again

Commit a Crime, No Voting Rights For You Ever Again

You commit a felony, you lose the right to vote. For someone who will never find themselves behind bars, this might sound reasonable. You commit a crime, you pay the consequences. But does this mean that a felon deserves a lifetime of punishment beyond what the court orders? Should a nonviolent felon lose their voting rights for life?

Nonviolent offenders and many who will never set foot in prison or jail have lost their citizenship status after a conviction, according to The Atlantic. Many are minorities, many live in impoverished circumstances, and many have been unfairly affected by the ‘sledgehammer’ of the War on Drugs.

For some, according to Daniel Weeks of The Atlantic, “their ability to influence the laws under which they live is severely restricted from the moment they are found guilty of an offense, leaving them effectively powerless to change the socio-political conditions under which most of them live.”

In Kentucky, one of the “four most restrictive states” in this matter, the only way for a felon to restore their voting rights is to petition the governor. It sounds easy but it’s not one that many will undertake.

One supporter for restored voting rights, Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, says that: [With the current law,] a “governor would spend his entire time in office” reviewing and signing requests for voting rights restoration. …The current process has led to the disenfranchisement of more than 200,000 people. (Courier-Journal)

While restoring voting rights for felons isn’t exactly an important issue for Congress, many states have moved forward on this topic. And it looks like Kentucky could join them.

A longtime effort to restore voting rights for most convicted felons who have served their punishment glided to approval in committee on Tuesday.

The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill, which would restore voting rights for felons who have met the requirements of their sentence and who were not convicted of intentional murder, rape, sodomy, or a sexual offense with a minor.

“Other than that, you would automatically be reinstated with your right to vote,” said the sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington. (Courier-Journal)

It’s a move that Paul actively supports:

“The right to vote is a sacred one in our country and it is the very foundation of our republic. I urge the Kentucky Senate to act on this very important issue.”

He’s spoken before about restoring rights to felons who have served appropriate sentences. It isn’t surprising considering how closely it relates to the unfair nature of mandatory sentencing laws. After all, why should one stupid mistake as a kid (like growing pot in your dorm room) prevent someone from being an active citizen? And why should nonviolent offenders (and a disproportionate amount of minorities) be prevented from having a say in the laws that affect their lives?

 
(Photo courtesy of Dave Hosford, via Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

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