Should prisoners in the US vote?

On Thursday, August 6 at 19:30 GMT:
New legislation tabled in Washington, DC could soon see all of the district’s convicted felons obtain the right to vote while in prison.

It is a bold move in a country where giving prisoners the right to vote remains a controversial issue. If passed, it will place the US capital alongside Maine and Vermont, the only two states in America where prisoners can cast an electoral vote.

The debate around felons’ right to vote has an extensive history in the US and, as individual states determine their own legislation, policies are rarely uniform. While many states allow voting upon completion of a prison sentence, others remove a convicted felons’ enfranchisement for life. According to The Sentencing Project, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organisation, at least 6.1 million Americans were prohibited from voting in 2016 due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offences.

The US has one of the largest prison populations in the world, with approximately 2.3 million people currently imprisoned there – one out of every five prisoners globally. And, given US prison populations generally have higher numbers of African American males than any other demographic, advocacy groups have viewed laws related to felony enfranchisement as a means of suppressing Black voters.

In Spring 2019, former presidential hopeful and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders reignited the national debate. 

“The right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” he said. “Yes even for terrible people because once you start chipping away … you’re running down a slippery slope.”

In this episode of The Stream we ask: Should convicted felons have the right to vote, is it dependent on the crime committed and what are the social, political and ethical issues at play?

On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Jeff Jacoby, @Jeff_Jacoby
Opinion columnist, The Boston Globe

Robert White, @CMRobertWhiteDC
Councilmember at-Large, Washington, DC

Taina Vargas-Edmond, @tainaangeli
Founder and executive director, Initiate Justice

Read more:
Court says Florida can’t bar felons from voting over unpaid fines – Al Jazeera
Over a million Florida ex-convicts can begin registering to vote – Al Jazeera

Source: Al Jazeera

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