Opinion: Ex-felons should be able to vote

Almost five million United States citizens over the age of seventeen are ineligible to vote due to their past crimes and felonies. These people are denied a say in what laws they follow and who represents them in the senate. 

Disenfranchising past felons excludes them from our country’s democracy and reduces the number of minority votes in the polls. ”

— Guest Writer Chloe Fitzsimmons

Ex-felons in many states are refused voting rights due to their past mistakes. After serving a grim sentence in incarceration or an unfortunate few months on probation, it seems illogical to remove their constitutional right to vote. Disenfranchising past felons excludes them from our country’s democracy and reduces the number of minority votes in the polls. 

Currently, many states attempt to block or disclude felons from voting. Many ex-felons in return cannot cast their votes. The United States Constitution explains that any citizen eighteen years or older has a right to vote. Due to violations of the law, people who commit incarceration-worthy crimes are stripped of this legality. As Jonathan Bernstein from the Washington Post writes, “Democracy is fundamentally about people governing themselves.” Bernstein explains the rights ex-felons do have which include a variety of constitutional virtues. Is it logical to have citizens of a democracy be ineligible to contribute? American citizens have specific rights that should not be stripped from them. Voting gives people the power to push their government in the direction they see fit; removing that power secludes them from their country.

It is no secret that a large percentage of ex-felons are minorities. Indeed, over five percent of voting-age African Americans are disenfranchised due to past or current crimes. Additionally, almost two percent of the Latino population lacks voting rights due to felony charges. By disenfranchising ex-felons, many minorities are left unable to vote. This makes it difficult for a minority population to impact government authority and laws. Their views are especially important because many minorities have drastically different experiences than those of the majority, and this needs to be reflected in the polls. 

If citizens are revoked of their voting rights, do we really live in a democracy at all?”

— Guest Writer Chloe Fitzsimmons

Many believe ex-felons should continue being punished for their past actions. They argue felons already demonstrated poor judgment and should not vote. These claims do not encompass exactly how a candidacy works. In an election, candidates are educated individuals whose campaigns do not support felonies like rape and murder. In order to run, they need to meet state qualifications and oftentimes need endorsement by a party. Letting felons vote does not mean laws they broke will suddenly become legal. There is also the fact that one vote almost never decides an election. The idea is that people are included in the government and have a say, and one vote lacks the power to overrule an indisputably wrong idea.

Removing an ex-felon’s right to vote goes against the idea of democracy. If citizens are revoked of their voting rights, do we really live in a democracy at all? If a person can own a house, buy a car, and work a job, they should be able to vote on issues that control their everyday life. In order to make a change, we must make the government realize we as citizens are not okay with the unfair treatment of people who have done their time. We must demand that a new amendment is written that adds and fully clarifies every adult citizen has the full ability to vote

Changing these barriers offers inclusion of ex-felons who will experience the consequences of their temporary sentences for the rest of their lives. Offering them an opportunity to vote allows them to not only have a say in our government, but contributes to the freedom of our country as a whole.

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