Maybe gollumgollum can explain this one to me, since she’s studied the U.S. prison system.
I read a post recently by a guy who was convicted of a felony some years ago, did his time, got out. He apparently volunteers for political work regularly, “get out the vote” efforts — because he can’t vote. And I think that was the first time I discovered that felons in prison are not permitted to vote, and depending on the state they live in, cannot vote for some variable amount of time after they’ve been released.
I don’t understand why.
I know that our legal system is based on a principle of punishing offenders by stripping them of various freedoms and rights. On the whole, I prefer that to the principle of subjecting them to physical torment, say, or other options societies have tried throughout the centuries. But I’m not sure I get, let alone agree with, stripping them of the right to vote. Maybe it’s because I view that as a responsibility as much as a privilege. Maybe it’s because our entire prison system is kind of broken to begin with. But I just don’t get it. It isn’t like saying convicted pedophiles shouldn’t be allowed to live within five miles of an elementary school; I doubt these felons used their voting rights to commit their crimes.
Once you’ve done your time, what conceivable argument is there for not being allowed to participate in democracy again?
(What argument is there for not being allowed to participate while doing time? Are we afraid somebody will organize a prisoner voting bloc to pass some law favorable to them?)
This particular story had a happy ending; the guy in question had just discovered that in his state, he was in fact eligible to vote again. There was joy radiating from my screen, I swear. This is a guy who desperately cares about his country, who wants to do everything he can to be a part of it again. Denying ex-felons the right to vote, as far as I can see, only serves to ostracize them further, and hinder them from becoming productive members of society again.