Ex-FelonsShould Not Have the Right to Vote
SharonSalzberg, the pioneer of Insight Meditation Society in Massachusettsonce said, “Voting is the expression of our commitment toourselves, one another, this country and the world”(Bevel78).Citizensaround the world exercise their commitment to a democratic process byparticipating in elections and bestowing representationresponsibility to others with the capacity to make constructivepolicies. The elected members convene houses to make rules that aredeemed the thoughts of the whole population. Although the right totake part in elections is awarded to every citizen, ex-felons arebarred from participating in the process. Ex-prisoners refer toindividuals who have previously contravened the law through anatrocity that was deemed punishable by law. The common crimes in theUnited States include rape, murder, homicide, arson, burglary, drugpeddling, and tax evasion among others. These inflict pain, loss, andfrustration on the victims. One school of thought believes thatdenying the ex-felons the right punishes them twice for the samecrime. Others believe that the ex-offenders have demonstrated thelack of effective judgment when making decisions. Ex-offenders shouldnot participate in the election process due of their incapacity tomake sound judgments, their disregard for the liberties of otherpeople and the misperception that such restriction is raciallyperpetrated.
Currently,more than 5 million individuals have lost their right to participatein any major election in the United States (Mille and Agnich 68). Thecontroversy surrounding the right of felons looms in every state. Theproponents of the right to elect leaders articulate that it is unjustfor the society to subject offenders to a double jeopardy despitethem having served their terms in jail (Mille and Agnich 68). Thesupporters perceive that any debt owed to the community by thelawbreakers is paid in full through incarceration. Besides, thejudicial system is efficient, and it appropriates the rightpunishment for the various crimes. Therefore, when the variouspunishments were being outlined, the legal stakeholders deemed themas inflictive enough and equal to the committed felony. Therefore,the punishment should not extend beyond the prison walls.
However,some punishments and accompanying repercussions complement eachother. For example, in the case of selling counterfeit products in alicensed business, it would be perfectly right for the proprietor tolose the permit and pay a given fine. According to Mille and Agnich,just because felons spend time in prison does not mean that theyshould not face the consequences that the society has to offer (71).George Brooks, an attorney and the President of Fordham LawRepublicans is critical that, “When someone commits a crime, he notonly hurts the victim but the society as well. Therefore, fulfillingthe requirements of the parole does not render the individualslaw-abiding” (Mille and Agnich 71). Consequently, for the interestof the larger society, it would be prudent to allow the right to voteto individuals who have shown respect for the laws that govern thesociety (Mille and Agnich 73). It also explains why the right to voteis not a federal, but a state issue. The laws amended by the statesdetermine the suitability of an individual to cast votes.
Someresearchers also indicate that ex-offenders who are given the rightto vote have fewer chances of relapsing to crimes since they feelbeing part of the societal activities without discrimination. Inother words, voting encourages responsibility. According to Thompson,although a responsible person will take the time to cast a vote, itshould not be misconstrued that taking part in an election elicitspatriotism (67). In any case, a significant number of those convictedof a crime have been involved in several elections, yet they couldnot keep the law. It would also be incorrect to claim thatex-prisoners who enjoy the liberty to vote after having satisfied thepunishment set out by the judicial system are not likely to sufferfrom recidivism.
Variousreasons do not grant the ex-felons the right to take part in anelection. First, the claim that voting liberty cannot be alienatedfrom the citizen is rather weak. According to Thompson, the basicliberties outlined in the declaration of independence touch on lifeand freedom of happiness, which are also limited if they affect otherpeople’s ability to enjoy their rights (67). Some of the foundingfathers of the constitution, including Locke, believed that a citizenforfeits his enjoyment of the rights outlined in the constitution ifthey trump on the liberties enjoyed by other individuals (Thompson69).
Thesociety has the responsibility of determining the right punishmentthat can include losing the rights that one cannot respect. Thompsonis critical that one does not gain the liberty to vote by merelybeing a citizen (67). Several thresholds bar some individualsincluding the mentally disturbed and children from participating inthe process. Casting votes require an individual responsibility andloyalty. Engaging in crime is an expression of contempt for the lawsthat govern a society. Also, having gone through parole is not anindication of developing interest and respect for the rules and therights of other people (Thompson 67). Therefore, allowing them tovote is placing the decision-making the role of a society in thehands of people who do not believe in its course.
Secondly,engaging in crimes of varying magnitude, including, rape, murder,drug peddling, burglary, and tax evasion among others illustrate anindividual’s susceptibility to poor judgment. Roger Clegg, theleader of the Center for Equal Opportunity, is vehement that when anindividual is not willing to follow the law, he/she cannot agitatefor the right to make laws to protect everyone (Gerber 915). Thesusceptibility to poor judgment and decision-making renders one unfitto participate in shaping the political environment of the society.According to Gerber, politically instigated schools of thoughtbelieve that reinstating the right of more than 5 million ex-felonsto vote can change the outcomes of an election (913). While this istrue, the author notes that political decisions cannot be made in anenvironment devoid of values and patriotism (913). The ex-felons canvote in favor for a leader who is lenient on the disenfranchisement.Such a move is a reflection of the controversy surrounding the matterand the political stances cannot settle fairly due to the conflict ofinterest.
Besidesexhibiting the incapacity to make sound decisions, ex-felons who havegone through parole should not automatically redeem the right to votesince the restriction is not racially instigated as claimed by asection of the pro leaders. According to Ruth, Matusitz, and Simi,the theoretical claim that views restriction of cast votes as denyingblack a chance to have a voice in putting leaders in office ismisleading (4). The rationale for this is that having a big number ofBlacks as ex-felons does not translate into undue targeting of theAfrican-Americans. The economic disenfranchisement of most Blacks andthe conditions in which they live encourages crime to thrive. Also,they are relatively fewer than the Native Americans, and theirpopulation in jail composes a significant representation. Thedisenfranchisement to vote, therefore, does not have a racialbacking.
Inspite of the informed restrictions for ex-offenders to vote, thecircumstances in which an individual committed a crime should beconsidered by the various states. Ruth, Matusitz, and Simi arecritical that not all crimes depict the absence of patriotism orinability to make decisions (8). For example, some crimes arecommitted in self-defense or out of ignorance. In addition, one-timeoffenders do not remain incapacitated to make the right decisions forthe rest of their lives. The states should enact laws to provide theminimum time that ex-felons who have completed parole should staybefore being allowed to vote again (12). Also, the law shoulddifferentiate between single-time felons and habitual ones sincetheir attitude towards the laws that govern the society vary. Withthe current rate of incarceration in America, it would be unfair todeny such a big population the right to vote for the rest of theirlives. Those who exhibit a consistency of the desirable behavior andadherence to the laws for a given time should not be subjected tofurther punishment through disenfranchisement.
Inconclusion, ex-felons should not have the right to vote because oftheir inability to make the right judgment, their disrespect for therights of other people and the notion that such disenfranchisement isracially instigated. Isaac Asimov observes, “Anti-intellectualismhas been a constant thread winding its way through our political andcultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that`my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge” (Traphagan).Therefore, it would be wrong to allow people who do not value thesocietal value to take part in deciding the leadership. However, therestriction should be relaxed after the individuals show the regardfor the Constitution and the laws enacted by the state.
Bevel,Helen L.SELMA,The Spiritual Significance of the Right-to-Vote Movement.The Nonviolent Human & Community Development, Chicago, 2016.Print.
Gerber,Alan S. "Can Incarcerated Felons be (Re) Integrated into thePolitical system? Results from a Field Experiment." AmericanJournal of Political Science 59.4(2015): 912-926. Print.
Miller,Bryan Lee, and Laura E. Agnich. "Unpaid Debt to Society:Exploring how Ex-felons view Restrictions on voting Rights after theCompletion of their Sentence." ContemporaryJustice Review19.1 (2016): 69-85. Print.
Ruth,Terrance, Jonathan Matusitz, and Demi Simi. "Ethics ofDisenfranchisement and Voting Rights in the US: Convicted Felons, theHomeless, and Immigrants." AmericanJournal of Criminal Justice (2016):1-13. Print.
Thompson,Mark E. "Don`t Do the Crime If You Ever Intent to Vote Again:Challenging the Disenfranchisement of Ex-Felons as Cruel and UnusualPunishment." SetonHall. L. Rev.33 (2002): 167. Print.
Traphagan,John W. (2014). “America’s Cult of Ignorance Is No Match forAsia’s Cult of Intelligence.” HuffPost.August 17 2014. Web. 26 July 2016.