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Felony Disenfranchisement and the Constitution

Info: 1363 words (5 pages) Law Essay
Published: 20th Nov 2020

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Imagine a world that you are unable to vote because you got in the heat of a moment of a football match. Being convicted of a felony either violent or non-violent will result in the disenfranchisement of their rights during and after sentence. Voting is a crucial part of today’s society and democracy. Felons should get all voting rights as soon as they have finished their sentence because they are American citizens with the right to vote, they have completed their time and punishment, and though many will say they lost their freedom when they committed the crimes the disenfranchisement from the polls inhibits millions of Americans from expressing their say.

Felon’s after the complete their punishment are still American Citizens. Alex Friedmann said, “If society doesn't care enough about former prisoners to treat them as citizens, with the voting rights of citizens, then why should former prisoners care enough about society to act like law-abiding citizens?” If ex-convicts are not treated with some respect what is stopping them from respecting the law? Voting and expressing an opinion is what build this nation; no taxation without representation. Felons still pay taxes once out and therefore should have a say in government.

Felons are required to follow the laws of the land but are unable to say which laws they want and those they disagree with. “The 15th Amendment to the Constitution says: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race,” [Browne.] It is a constitutional right to be able to vote. While incarcerated you forfeit those rights, but once you are reintroduced into society, you regain certain rights. Citizenship isn’t removed for a felony crime but on crimes against the state. Being able to vote brings a sense of national and self-pride.

Felons are set a certain length of punishment after the time has pass felons regain rights and freedoms. “Prisoners now finish their sentences without parole and are released with just a bus ticket home and about $150--no skills and no assistance finding employment. Giving them the right to vote alone won't save them from returning to crime, but it's free, and it can't hurt.” [Thompson]. Prisoners served their time and giving rights to vote helps them get back on track or at least encourages it. One vote won’t change and election but millions will.

Felons serve time-related to sentences. If you don't allow voting rights to return afterward is essentially forcing them to serve a  extended punishment. Ten years means ten years of no voting, not a lifetime. “Even after they have completed their sentences; the specifics vary by state. These policies disproportionately impact African Americans—a situation that reflects the discriminatory origins from which the policies emerged.” [Purtle]. Disenfranchisement is just a way to have power over African Americans like Jim crow or literacy tests.

The constitution says that those who committed serious crimes are denied certain rights. “Every other federal court of appeals so far has ruled against using the Voting Rights Act to give felons the right to vote.” [Browne]. Violent and Non-violent felony crimes are denied the right to vote. We pass legislature into law to allow voting for all but also pass the same laws to keep select groups from voting. “There are certain minimum and objective standards…” [Browne]. We keep children from voting, and the mentally incompetent from voting and felons fall under the same category. Those who don’t uphold the same morally compass are denied rights.

Many Americans fall into the category of unfit to vote because they are ex-felons. Millions of United States citizens who have served their punishment and are now active in society aren’t allowed to vote and express what happens to them. This is dangerous. The country built on the belief of representation is lacking it in its very borders. “Abolitionists, viewed at the time as radicals, embraced what has been called a philosophy of formal equality. They not only insisted on the liberation and enfranchisement of former slaves, but also supported the disenfranchisement of criminals, rebels and other wrongdoers.” [Mukasey]. Abolitionists who wanted change that was hard to accept let to laws that helped but that was long ago, and we need new abolitionists to fight for those who can’t vote today. A few million votes can change elections. During the 2000 election, Al Gore lost Florida by 537 votes; which would have swayed the entire presidential election. Florida has been notorious with disenfranchisement and only started to work on it this year.

Felony disenfranchisement had been a problem in the United States since we started voting and it is still something we can’t figure out. People are stripped of a right that built this nation. American citizens whether committed a crime or not are still citizens. Felons are punished for there actions by prison time; therefore, their punishment shouldn’t be extended outside of the cement walls. The disenfranchisement of felons sways elections and keeps Americans from expression real opinion. Humans aren’t perfect and shouldn’t be punished forever on actions of the past. Withholding criminal's from voting is hypocritical of what this nation stands for.

Work Cited

  • Bousquet, Steve. "Florida's Felon Disenfranchisement System Under Intense National Glare." Tampa Bay Times, 11 Sep. 2018. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Browne, Sharon, and Roger Clegg. "Felons can't Vote, and that's Fair." Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA), 13 Jun. 2010, pp. A. 29. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Crist, Charlie. "Charlie Crist: Restore Rights to Florida Felons." Orlando Sentinel (Online), 13 Jun. 2017. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Kander, Jason. "If You've done Your Time, You should Get to Vote." Sun-Sentinel, 20 Jun. 2017, pp. A.9. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Mukasey, Michael B. "What Holder Isn't Saying about Letting Felons Vote." Wall Street Journal, 15 Feb. 2014, pp. A.17. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Purtle, Jonathan. "Prisoner Disenfranchisement Is Wrong and Dangerous." America's Prisons, edited by Jack Lasky, Greenhaven Press, 2016. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010108447/OVIC?u=onlinelibrary&sid=OVIC&xid=1459346e. Accessed 25 Nov. 2018. Originally published as "The Link Between Felon Disenfranchisement, Politics, and Health," Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 June 2014.
  • Robles, Frances. "Florida Eases Voting Ban for Felons, Giving 1.4 Million a Second.." New York Times, 08 Nov. 2018, pp. F.14. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Staff, ProQuest. Felony Disenfranchisement Timeline. Leading Issues Timelines, 2018. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Thompson, Nicholas. "Locking Up the Vote." Washington Monthly, 2001, pp. 17-21. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
  • Wolf, Stephen. "Structural Problems and Disenfranchisement Are Keeping Non-White Voters from the Polls." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/SMWMKW233380641/OVIC?u=onlinelibrary&sid=OVIC&xid=939fcc19. Accessed 25 Nov. 2018. Originally published as "Why Is the U.S. Electorate So White? Because Our Voting System Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It," New Republic, 23 Dec. 2014.

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