Should Felons Have the Right to Vote?
Bernie Sanders thinks that felons should have the right to vote even while incarcerated. That is a foolish and irresponsible view. But it is shared by the leftists who now dominate the Democrat Party.
1) Felons have shown by their destructive behavior that they cannot productively order their own lives. Why then should they have any say in the ordering of society? Why should the thoughtful vote of a decent, law-abiding citizen be canceled out by the vote of an armed robber, a rapist, a drug dealer, a terrorist, or any other miscreant? That could make sense only to someone who substituted feeling for thought.
Criminals have no interest in the common good; their concern is solely with their own gratification. They do not, as a group, contribute to society; they are, as a group, a drag on society. So I ask again: why should they be allowed to vote? And how many of them would even want to vote if they weren't given incentives by leftist activists?
I concede the following. Some 'felons' have been wrongly convicted. Some felonies should be misdemeanors. There are different classes of felonies. Some felons reform themselves and become productive members of society. But none of these concessions affects the main point, namely, that it is foolish and irresponsible to maintain that felons as a group should have the right to vote even while incarcerated.
. . . the right to vote is an inalienable and universal principle that applies to all American citizens 18 years and older. Period. As American citizens all of us are entitled to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and all the other freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights.
By this logic, felons have the right to keep and bear arms even while incarcerated. After all, Second Amendment rights are "enshrined in our Bill of Rights." And they are "inalienable and universal." But of course, there are excellent reasons to deny felons the right to buy and own guns, and in particular the 'right' to pack heat while in prison! You would have to be insane to to think that an armed robber's right, qua citizen, to keep and bear arms is in no way affected by his history of armed robbery. Rights can be lost, limited, and forfeited. Rights cannot be coherently thought of as absolute and unexceptionable.
The right to free speech does not give a person the right to say absolutely anything in any context. There is no right to freedom of religion if your 'religion' involves human sacrifice. The right to freedom of assembly is limited by property rights. You have no right to assemble on my property without my permission. There is no right to block public thoroughfares or destroy public property. Individual property rights are limited by legitimate eminent domain considerations. Eminent domain laws have been misused, but that is no argument against them in principle.
But doesn't capital punishment violate the right to life? Capital punishment does not involve a violation of a citizen's right to life: the murderer or anyone who commits a capital crime forfeits his right to life by committing a capital crime. If I use deadly force against you in a self-defense situation in which you threaten my life, and in so doing cause your death, I have done something both morally and legally permissible. It follows that I haven't violated your right to life. Rights violations are by definition impermissible. By your action, you have forfeited your right to life.
Sanders tells us that the right to vote is a "universal principle that applies to all American citizens 18 years and older." But if it were truly universal, then children should allowed to vote. Why the restriction to 18 years and older? Nancy Pelosi recently maintained that the voting age should be lowered to 16 so as to involve young people in politics. But why 16 and not 14? Think of how many more young people would be involved in politics if the voting age were reduced to 10. The stupidity of this is obvious and the motive behind it is transparent.
3) Sanders on voter suppression:
Indeed, our present-day crisis of mass incarceration has become a tool of voter suppression. Today, over 4.5 million Americans — disproportionately people of color — have lost their right to vote because they have served time in jail or prison for a felony conviction. It goes without saying that someone who commits a serious crime must pay his or her debt to society. But punishment for a crime, or keeping dangerous people behind bars, does not cause people to lose their rights to citizenship. It should not cause them to lose their right to vote.
It is true that a person who is justly incarcerated does not cease to be a citizen. But it hardly follows that he retains every right of a citizen. To underscore the obvious, the prisoner is not free to come and go as he pleases. He is not immune to searches and seizures. And so on. Limitation and suspension of rights is part of the punishment.
And then we have the obfuscatory leftist talk of 'voter suppression' and 'mass incarceration.' One does not suppress the vote of illegal aliens; they have no right to vote in the first place. Similarly, one does not suppress the vote of felons; they have no right to vote.
Sanders apparently thinks that 'people of color' are the victims of voter suppression because they are disproportionately represented among the prison population. The suggestion is that they are incarcerated to keep them from voting. Nonsense. They are disproportionately incarcerated because they are disproportionately involved in criminal behavior.