Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Returning Citizens Should Be Allowed to Vote

This is a follow-up post to the one I wrote on the night of the midterm elections.

In that post, I probed the common law origins of the disenfranchisement of felons. The practice of stripping people of the right to vote as an additional consequence for committing a felony, I argued, does not really make sense in a democracy.

Tonight, I discovered tonight that my views are in alignment with the conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Stephen Chapman and the Sentencing Project, a progressive research and advocacy group.

Chapman's column last week praised the work of the Sentencing Project in encouraging states to amend their laws to promote greater civic participation by convicted felons. Twenty-three states have done so since 1997, with voting rights restored to about 800,000 people. Two of these states - Maine and Vermont - allow people who are still in prison serving their sentences to vote.

In short, a convict can still be a citizen. But the degree of citizenship extended is still jurisdiction-specific; it depends on the state you're in.

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