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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Don't Do the Crime If You Want To Vote For Howard Dean's Candidate

Contributor Neal Meyerson sent us a comment on the NYT editorial that opened with:

The laws that strip ex-offenders of the right to vote across the United States are the shame of the democratic world.

After such hyperbole, they return to earth and make the following coherent point:

Of an estimated five million Americans who were barred from voting in the last presidential election, a majority would have been able to vote if they had been citizens of countries like Britain, France, Germany or Australia. Many nations take the franchise so seriously that they arrange for people to cast ballots while being held in prison. In the United States, by contrast, inmates can vote only in two states, Maine and Vermont.

This distinctly American bias - which extends to jobs, housing and education - keeps even law- abiding ex-offenders confined to the margins of society, where they have a notoriously difficult time building successful lives. A few states, at least, are beginning to grasp this point. Some are reconsidering postprison sanctions, including laws that bar ex-offenders from the polls.

Meyerson writes:

I have been following this issue for a while. I find the reasoning here somewhat suspect. By combining the issues of voting rights for ex-offenders with their treatment by society in general the issue becomes muddled. I think it is legitimate, as part of one's sentence for a felony, to include a limitation on future voting rights. Part of "paying your debt to society" includes a limit on your future voting rights. Whether it becomes permanent or expires after a set period of time is appropriate, I think, for each state to determine. I don't necessarily favor a lifetime ban for every convicted felon.

My response is:

How many Americans care enough to vote who possess the right? Is it really a desparate need for ex-cons?

Meanwhile, the concept of paying for a bad decision carries weight with me. Some early bad decisions, like not studying in school and/or dropping out, has lifelong ramifications. They can be corrected but there are reasonable questions to answer at a job interview and an employer has a right to either have second thoughts or, conversely, see a real valuable employee who overcame a problem.

Typical of the NYT, besides the over-the-top bluster (this is "the shame of the democratic world"? Is that like Gitmo is a Gulag?), is there is no consideration that such penaties for felony conviction may have been an accepted practice world-wide for centuries with a reasonable common law basis. To the NYT, the world began the day before yesterday. Any law or principle should be over-turned, if it upsets their progressive sensibilities.


At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Following the lead of US Supreme Court Justice Kennedy we should consider the law of other nations as a model for our own as we did when we added being too young as a legal defense, like that of being too stupid, to the imposition of a death sentence. Can't we do a better job of allowing all members of society the chance to have their voice heard. The nation will be healthier. In fact we should allow campaigning in prisons. Why shouldn't Charles Manson get to vote??

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there were ballot irregularities in these prisons, who would go in to recount the votes? Only people with balls is my guess.

And would these convicts truly take the time to vote when there is new blood to gang rape? What takes priority?

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect you folks have no faith in the rehabilitative value of prison. The educational choices--voucherlike--make a high percentage of lifers quite articulate, knowledgeable, and insightful. Indeed, there is the likelihood that the best blogs will emanate from our prisons, eclipsing those of hobbyists and professionals alike. With this intellectual foment, those released from prison will go on to leadership in the lay intelectual community and, if enfranchised, leadership positions in government where they can use their pre-prison criminal skills and talents in a more discreet manner, ultimately becoming revered philanthropists with schools and parks named after them. Redemption in America. God-willing.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, quite right you are. Indubitably. And a number of other positive affirmations I copied directly from my Thesaurus...

There are a large number of "lifers" who are absolute geniuses. And we are all of us positively bursting with enthusiasm that each and every one of them will use his or her genius for good, if only we give them the opportunity. *sniff* People can be so cruel to these poor souls!

Nevermind letting Charles Manson vote... let's just go ahead and make him President! It would certainly save a lot of useless trips overseas, and expensive state dinners, if our leader were in a 6 x 8 cell.

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