Letting Ex-Cons Vote Is No Crime

The case for ending felon disenfranchisement

If you voted last week, you may have seen some new faces in the line to cast ballots. College kids who have turned 18 since the last election. Naturalized immigrants eager to exercise one of the privileges of citizenship. Even a few ex-convicts.

Or maybe more than a few. In most places, anyone convicted of a felony loses the right to vote for some period—while he's behind bars, until he's completed his term of probation, or even for life. But in recent years, 23 states have revised their laws to let more onetime criminals take part in this ritual of democracy, and the changes have had a noticeable effect.

According to a new report by Nicole Porter of the Washington-based Sentencing Project, "As a result of the reforms achieved during the period from 1997-2010, an estimated 800,000 persons have regained the right to vote."

It's an unlikely development. True, the case for letting former inmates vote is easy to make. It recognizes them as individuals capable of rehabilitation. It encourages them to reintegrate into society.

But let's face it: There is not a huge incentive for state legislators to care about this disenfranchised group, since disenfranchised people don't vote. Beyond the ranks of felons and their families, most people don't know or care much about the issue.

Granting a benefit to those who have broken the law can be portrayed as soft on crime. When the idea began to get attention back in the 1990s, some Republicans even worried that easing the bans, which have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans, would only help Democrats at the polls.

In spite of all these impediments, though, a lot of states have liberalized their laws. One pioneer was George W. Bush, who as governor of Texas signed legislation automatically restoring the franchise to inmates who have served their sentences. That decision gave 317,000 people the right to vote. Other red states have inched the same direction, including Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Nebraska.

That's a credit to Republican politicians who grasped the basic indefensibility of the policy. It's not as though barring felons from voting is a deterrent to crime, and it's not as though bands of ex-cons are plotting to gain political power.

For that matter, disenfranchisement is of no consequence to incorrigible criminals, who are more apt to see Election Day as a chance to burglarize unoccupied homes than an opportunity to shape economic policy. Most of the people affected by restrictive policies are people who have cleaned up their acts enough to care about being participants in our system of government.

The political consequences of the reforms are hard to detect, if they exist at all. Texas is every bit as Republican as it was in 1997.

Florida, which had one of the harshest policies, now automatically restores the vote to those convicted of some crimes and made it easier for others to regain it. The measure, pushed by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, helped some 150,000 people. They apparently did not turn out in droves to vote for him in his independent U.S. Senate race, which he lost to Republican Marco Rubio.

Utah, Montana, and North Dakota remain as red as a fire truck even though felons are eligible to vote as soon as they complete their sentences. Vermont and Maine allow felons to vote while they are in prison, and Sentencing Project executive director Marc Mauer notes that "they have not been taken over by criminals." For that matter, Republicans just captured the Maine legislature and the governorship.

The puzzle is that the changes have come about when there are no important constituencies to press for them. Mauer says that his group's campaign against strict disenfranchisement laws helped spark interest among legislators and ordinary citizens.

"Some of these policies had been in place for 150 years, and no one had ever looked at them," he recalls. "Some struck people as extreme, like a lifetime ban for one offense committed at age 18." Reform attracted the support of the conservative Prison Fellowship, as well as the American Correctional Association.

Eventually, all this made a difference in policy. In a period of often bitter divisions, we have a rare case of simple good sense overcoming partisan impulses. "Sometimes," says Mauer, "politicians do things for the right reasons."

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  • Suki||

    Good morning reason.

    Does the Constitution give the government rights-taking permission anyplace?

  • Suki||

    Veterans, thank you for your service to our country.

  • ||

    Bravo! I looked all over Reason and didn't see anything about Veterans Day. I expected that much from the liberal pukes that write here. Maybe the VA could give a donation and Radley Balko and Steve Chapman could go on a crusade for our armed forces. After all that's what the payday loan folks did, and the reefer folks. Rent-a-cause journalism at it's finest! God bless you kids overseas fighting for spoiled pukes at Reason!

  • ||

    Yeah, if they haven't posted anything by 9am EST, they're a bunch of Amurrica-hating "spoiled pukes". I don't care that a bunch of writers haven't even gotten out of bed yet, this is bullshit!

    I blame it on the payday loan folks and the reefer folks.

  • waffles||

    aren't you a reefer folk?

  • ||

    Oh fuck yeah I am. But I'm also full of self-loathing, and I hate America. Just like the spoiled pukes at Reason.

  • ||

    It's not Amurricans, it's 'mericans.

    I kind of feel bad that I'm sitting on my couch while some 21 year old kid is running around Afghanistan with a rifle. When I was 21, I should say when I was still 27 I was a worthless puke too. Then I came to understand the difference between the way things are and the way things are suppose to be, and the way things are is there are still large swaths of people in the world that only understand violence, and will only cease after we've been violent with them. And I think it is a fucking stupid thing to let felons vote.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Oh

  • slutmonkey||

    If you were only talking about murder or rape that you pretty much have to be insane to do, then you'd have a point, but (even leaving stoners aside) most felons aren't murderers or rapists. Most aren't even a "danger to society."

    However almost everything is a felony these days. If you knew anything about the modern criminal code you'd realize that most people commit several felonies per week if not per day. Sure, most people are never prosecuted for these "crimes", but quite a few people are, and it's stupid to prevent these people from voting.

    Go read this, and then tell me if YOU should be allowed to vote:
    http://www.amazon.com/Three-Fe.....1594032556

  • ||

    And I think it is a fucking stupid thing to let felons vote.

    I agree... unless you really mean ex-felons. They've done their time and as Chapman said, this is a final step towards rehabilitation.

  • JohnD||

    Well, you don't understand. Chapman is too busy lobbying to let ex-cons vote to worry about veterans.
    Reason really is a crappy excuse for an on line mag.

  • MNG||

    Paleos Unite!

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Oh. Now I see.

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    I would agree with you, Mr. Chapman, if we were discussing ex-cons who were guilty of "victimless" crimes like drug use, drug selling, etc.

    But the criminals who steal, rape, and murder should not be given the ability to vote, imo.

    These people knowingly violated the rights of others. Their punishment should be a revocation of their individual rights. If they have taken the freedom of choice, freedom of life, freedom to own property, and freedom of liberty from an innocent, I see no reason why they should expect the rest of us to give two sh**s about their rights.

  • ||

    + 5
    Agreed - once one impeeds upon the rights of another, then they give up their voice in society as they display their inability to govern themselves.

  • ||

    I think what you're making there is more of an argument against the proliferation of felonies that shouldn't be felonies.

  • ||

    Yeah, this. The only people who should be felons in the first place are folks who "knowingly violated the rights of others."

    I also agree with the handful of people who've pointed out that once a sentence has been served, no matter what the crime, full rights should indeed be restored.

  • JohnD||

    Foretunately Rhayader, no one gives a crap what you think.

  • ||

    ....uhhhh....ok.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Oh. Important point.

  • Ramsey||

    How christian of you.

  • Colin||

    +1

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    I'm an agnostic, so I don't really give a hoot about what "Ye olde book of Jewish Fairy Tales" says about what I believe.

  • Dave||

    Whether you or any other fascist give a sh** about anybody's rights is completely irrelevant. Taking away somebody's right to vote AFTER they have been appropriately punished for a crime and become a FREE citizen again is f'ing idiotic and arguably unconstitutional. If the government has the ability to take away voting rights, is there really any limit to government power??? Just expand the list of offenses that result in disenfranchisement and you have a totalitarian state.

  • cynical||

    Why must all punishments have the same duration? The idea that a person who's been released from prison has paid some sort of debt is the problem. Actually, the idea of prison as some sort of hybrid rehab/punishment facility is the problem.

  • ||

    As a point of logic:

    If the government has the ability to take away voting rights imprison people, is there really any limit to government power??? Just expand the list of offenses that result in disenfranchisement and you have a totalitarian state.

    Is no different.

    Whilst I do think that the government *has* radically overexpanded the list of crimes that result in both loss of voting and imprisonment, I don't think that the argument you've made works as a reason to oppose loss of voting rights in all cases unless you also approve of opposing imprisonment in all cases.

  • ||

    (Obviously should have done disenfranchisement imprisonment as well. Darn.)

  • Some Guy||

    I am fine with disenfranchisement during prison and parole, but that should be it. And maybe if we let all the "criminals" of victimless crimes out of prisons, we could keep the rapists and murderers locked up for longer.

  • Mo||

    After they do their time, they've repaid their debt to society. No reason why they shouldn't get the right to vote back when they get their freedom back.

  • JohnD||

    No No No. Far too many criminals get slap on the wrist sentances for violent crimes. You are just another pansy ass cry baby that is all about feelings. Moron

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    "Doing their time" doesn't mean that they've changed their character. Look at the number of repeat offenders for proof of that.

    The problem is that these individuals have already demonstrated a willingness to act in ways which violate and/or remove the equal rights of their fellow citizens. This is not the kind of conduct you'd wish to see abound in the voting populace.

    If they're willing to take, by force, your life or property, why wouldn't you think it'd be ok with them to vote to take away your life and/or property?

  • Cy Nicklefuque||

    Politicians letting felons vote is just a form of professional courtesy.

  • ||

    One should have thier rights restored after they have severed thier time. 4 out of 10 now have a felnoy record in the U.S.A every law is now a felnoy. More so than 25 years ago. If one lives in a rural area in america its even more likey one gets a felnoy ,

  • Cy Nicklefuque||

    Roger, have you ever considered running for Congress?

  • ||

    Incoherent spelling and grammar, and punctuation should be a felnoy,

  • Yup||

    Usually (but not here at Reason) you will see people saying that felons need the right to vote. Ask them about returning their right to own firearms and the same people don't want that. It is more who they are voting for rather than fairness.
    I have no problem with losing the right to vote for committing certain crimes, you know ahead of time, you make the decision if it is worth it.

  • Ramsey||

    There are lots of crimes that have felony status but are not violent. Those people should have the same right to self defense as anyone else.

    Violent criminals, especially when a firearm was used in the commission of the crime, probably should have some restrictions.

  • Rrabbit||

    When a firearm was used in the commission of the crime, it is sensible to have the criminal lose the right to own firearms.

    However, that sentence should be decided by the courts, not by politicians.

  • 0x90||

    "Ask them about returning their right to own firearms and the same people don't want that. It is more who they are voting for rather than fairness."

    Or -- it just means, at least subconsciously, that people understand voting, especially when contrasted with owning firearms, is a meaningless 'right'.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Former felons have the right to own firearms. That right is just being violated by the state.

  • DJ Drugs||

    Especially since there is an explicit constitutional protection for arms bearing, but as to voting; Harlan had it right in Reynolds v. Sims.

  • MNG||

    To me the issue is simple, it has to do with the reason why we all get to vote: consent of the governed and taxed is what provides the legitimacy of any government. Are ex-cons asked to follow our rules and pay taxes? Then they should have a say in both.

  • ||

    But if you have violated someone else's rights, you ought to forfeit your say. I think the better cause is to reduce the number of things that make you a felon. So many things make you a felon now. It is rediculous.

  • MNG||

    "But if you have violated someone else's rights, you ought to forfeit your say."

    Why? I've never heard anyone articulate why this bare assertion should be accepted.

    On what principle is this conclusion based? My conclusion is based on the idea that the right to govern is based on the consent of the governed. What principle is your conclusion based on?

  • ||

    On the principle that all of our rights are based on our mutual respect of them. If I violently rob or murder you, what right do I have to then vote and have a say on what goes on in society? I don't live by the rules, why should I have any say in making them?

  • MNG||

    Our rights are based on mutual respect of rights? You'll have to explain that one to me further.

    "I don't live by the rules, why should I have any say in making them?"

    This is just a restatement of your original assertion. But I'd like to add another ciriticism: if you break one rule and then are asked to follow countless others you should have no say in the countless others because of the breaking of the one?

  • ||

    I think it's rather apparent that people who are currently in prison are being deprived of all sorts of other fundamental rights as well.

    I think that there are far too many people in prison, and far too many crimes, and specifically that far too many crimes are felonies.

    I'm not 100% sure that I completely follow the rest of the argument. I could be persuaded, though, on the basis that voting is a more fundamental right than other basic liberties, because you could vote to be freed, similar to an argument of why the First Amendment freedom of speech should apply most of all to any political speech.

    OTOH, I think that in many cases the power of exit is more important than voting (certainly the experience of race in this country demonstrates that-- before before the war and afterwards, the ability to migrate gave more liberty than the right to vote, as even in times when blacks were free to vote they were outnumbered by white supremacists in many states... Jim Crow didn't start out with votes not being counted, especially in states where the racists didn't feel a need to do so), and imprisonment certainly denies that.

  • MNG||

    Again, losing your vote is usually not part of your sentence, it is in the setting of voter eligibility. We are talking about people barred from voting after serving their sentence.

  • ||

    Actually, you're wrong. Losing your vote IS a part of the sentence, depending upon the state you dwell. You simply want to change that result. In your desire you should not deny reality.

  • MNG||

    You got a cite for that, because I'm pretty sure you are dead wrong.

  • ||

    Yeah, agreed, my understanding is that disenfranchisement is part of voting regulations, not a specifically defined sentence for each individual criminal.

  • Jason||

    Yeah, I think MNG is mostly right here:
    State Felon Voting Laws
    .

    However, I did have a girlfriend who had been convicted of a crime and surrendering several rights were conditions of her probation that she had to agree to.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    So if the sentence is "6 months in jail, and you can't ever vote again", you'd be Ok with it?

  • ||

    Well right now for a felony conviction that carries 6 months' imprisonment, disenfranchisement is a given anyway. If it's moved from a voting regulation over to an aspect of criminal sentencing, it becomes a variably applicable punitive measure instead of a blanket policy. Hard to see how the result would be more arbitrary and unjust. At worst it's the same.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "Why? I've never heard anyone articulate why this bare assertion should be accepted."

    Because government's laws are derived from the consent of the governed and your consent is exactly what is taken when you violate(take away) others' consent.

  • MNG||

    Governments laws are derived from consent of the govern. Violating others rights violates their consent. Therefore when you violate others rights the government should not have to have your consent to govern you.

    Dude, that doesn't add up.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    You wanted know the principle behind the assertion.

    My opinion is that the judge should decide in each case with limitations so that it only affects ex-cons in rare cases.

  • DJ Drugs||

    What doesn't add up is the deriving the "consent of the governed" from a tyranny of the majority.

  • Cy Nicklefuque||

    if you have violated someone else's rights, you ought to forfeit your say

    Moreover, if you have offended someone, you ought to forfeit your say.

  • Dave||

    Your assertion is baseless.

    How do you decide what's a felony? Isn't it completely f'ing arbitrary? How does it make sense to give the government such unlimited power? What if the government decided speeding was a felony? Then just about everybody is a felon and they lose the right to vote.

    Either you are a free citizen or you aren't. You can even make a case for allowing incarcerated people to vote. If we get to the point where felons voting makes a difference then we have a problem with imprisoning to many f'ing people. You know, I think we are already at that point. Make drug crimes felonies and disenfranchise all drug "criminals" and then voila, it's impossible to change our f'ing fascist drug laws.

  • ||

    If you commit a major crime serious enough to warrent years in prison, you forfeit your right to have a say in society. The problem is the drug laws not that Charlie Manson can't vote.

  • Some Guy||

    The problem is the drug laws not that Charlie Manson can't vote.

    So what about the 10,000 people locked up on felonies for drug laws in which no one was harmed in any way for every Charlie Manson?

    Maybe your argument would make sense if you weren't using a horribly flawed arbitrary line like felonies.

  • ||

    You are making my arguement for me. The problem is not the priciple that felons shouldn't vote. The problem is that we have bastardized what a felony is.

  • ||

    I completely agree with John's position on this matter.

    Too many felonies, and I don't think certain classes of violent criminals should ever be allowed to rejoin society, much less be able to vote.

  • ||

    I don't think certain classes of violent criminals should ever be allowed to rejoin society, much less be able to vote.

    So where does Prof. Aspartame draw his arbitrary line?

    Once rights become decreed by majoritarian fiat an inevitable and irreversible erosion of those rights will occur.

  • ||

    We draw the line via the justice system. You could make that argument about anything. Some crimes warrent long sentences right? So where do we draw the line? How do we send the right people to prison to protect society and not send everyone? That is called running a justice system.

  • ||

    "Once rights become decreed by majoritarian fiat an inevitable and irreversible erosion of those rights will occur>"

    So the majority can't vote to create laws that sends anyone to jail or take away someone's rights after due process?

  • ||

    You're arguing against the majority's proxy overturning laws that the majority's proxy put into place because the laws once had the majority's proxy's vote?

    Really?

  • ||

    Irreparable harm. Most property crimes can be handled with economic reparations and some sort of exclusionary punishment (prison). There is no repair available for murder. I may not be comfortable with the state administering the death penalty, but I'm fine with society permanently expelling people who do irreparable harm to another individual's right of self-ownership.

    A debate could be had about about what other violations of self-ownership constitute irreparable harm.

  • ||

    I don't think certain classes of violent criminals should ever be allowed to rejoin society, much less be able to vote.

    Then that's exactly how the sentence should be set for that category of crime. If people serve their sentences, they've officially accounted for their crimes. Once that has been accomplished, there's no basis for continuing to restrict their basic rights.

  • ||

    Rhayader,

    I'm not arguing for extra-judicial or post-sentence punishment.

    But, for violent criminals, I won't weep that they don't get to vote after getting out of prison. But please remember, I've stated in the past that there are vast swaths of people that would be disenfranchised in SugarFreetopia.

    The fetishization of democracy in the absence of minority protections has eroded far more rights than I ever will.

  • ||

    I'm not going to "weep" if a murderer can't vote for city alderman either, but it's not really about compassion or sympathy. If a man has served his sentence, he should be free to continue his life. If the idea of his voting is truly intolerable, than lifetime disenfranchisement should be a specific part of his sentence.

  • ||

    If the idea of his voting is truly intolerable, than lifetime disenfranchisement should be a specific part of his sentence.

    Err, isn't this a loophole large enough to drive anything through? It would take essentially no time at all to slip in lifetime disenfranchisement as part of the specific sentence automatically for all these various crimes. Or to have prosecutors and judges "recommend it." I can't see this making much practical difference.

    Originally, the distinction between felony and misdemeanor was that felonies were the crimes that resulted in loss of civil rights, confiscation of land and property, and so on.

  • ||

    Err, isn't this a loophole large enough to drive anything through?

    Yeah, good call. In the end, the real discussion here is the unjustifiable classification of all sorts of victimless "crimes" as felonies. Given that travesty though, I think a blanket disenfranchisement of felons might be a bit excessive.

  • ||

    Given that travesty though, I think a blanket disenfranchisement of felons might be a bit excessive.

    I think I might agree with you. Given the evidence that it seems to be easier to restore voting rights to felons than to eliminate the excessive number of felonies, I think that as a practical matter of policy I favor what can be achieved. So I do agree with you.

    That's different from a discussion of the theoretical optimum, though.

  • ||

    The fetishization of democracy in the absence of minority protections has eroded far more rights than I ever will.

    You sound like one of those "natural rights" nutjobs. Better watch it, Professor, or you'll be agreeing with me soon enough.

    The whole "we won't have to worry about non-violent offender's rights once drug laws are overturned" thing strikes me as Tulpian obtuseness.

    Post Script:

    I have to leave for work, so I can't argue any longer. But I like conversations that are centered around the philosophical basis of rights. Much better than arguing over Palin's new teevee show. I'll be back.

  • Jean Valjean||

    +5

  • Some Guy||

    Sorry, I misread your statement.

  • MNG||

    I've read that the policy of felons losing certain rights originates with the policy of "civil death" for felons. Since most felonies were capital crimes back in the day those that were spared lost virtually all civil rights (and forfeited property to the state often). It made some sense because the idea was "you should be dead." But very few felonies are capital crimes now.

    Let's be clear what we are talking about: when I can make laws and set taxes for you without your say then that is what Locke called slavery (that word gets thrown around a lot here, now's my turn :)). Are we going to say that if you violate someone else's rights you can be enslaved for life?

  • ||

    Because they committed a crime and were convicted of it. We can lock you up for life can't we? But somehow the governmetn can't keep you from voting? It is just another right that you forfeit when you commit a crime. We do this kind of thing all the time. For example, if you are a child molester you forfeit the right to make a living in a day care center. Are they slaves? No. In the same way, if you commit a serious enough crime, you lose your right to have a say in government. Should that be a serious crime? yes. But is it slavery? No

  • MNG||

    "We can lock you up for life can't we? But somehow the governmetn can't keep you from voting?"

    The barring of voting is usually not part of your sentence John, it is a measure concerning eligibility requirements for voting, a "franchise protection" measure.

    And barring a child molestor from working in a day care is not the same as barring a felon from participation in the electoral process. By your logic only felons convicted of vote fraud should be barred from voting.

    I can't think of a better definition of slavery than making the laws and taking taxes from someone who is not allowed to participate in that process at all.

  • MNG||

    "We can lock you up for life can't we?"

    Were I a SCOTUS justice I would find that life imprisonment for all but serious violent felonies would fail the proportionality requirement of the 8th amendment. The principle is likewise for life disenfranchisement for these offenses.

  • ||

    The principle is likewise for life disenfranchisement for these offenses.

    Yeah, so you would support it for really serious crimes. So would I. We are not disagreeing. The problem is the definition of Felony, not the principle.

  • ||

    If the government can say "if you commit murder and are convicted, you must go to jail for at least X number of years", why can't it say "if you commit a serious crime, you can't ever vote again". It is just another form of punishment. Certainly less than locking you in a cell for years.

  • ||

    I can see the logic here, but if that's how it's going to be, than disenfranchisement should be specifically listed as part of the sentence for each crime to which it applies. We set sentencing limitations and guides for incarceration, and I'm not sure why disenfranchisement should be a blanket treatment.

  • ||

    I would agree with that. I think we should re think who does and does not lose their right to vote. But i am not prepared to say it should never happen. If you want to make it part of a sentence for certain really bad crimes or crimes against the public trust, like crooked public officials, I think that would be a good idea.

  • ||

    If a state has a blanket ban on felons voting, then it is an implied part of their sentence. Why should it have to be applied separately? I'd have more of a problem if they were picking and choosing which couldn't vote, post-incarceration.

    As a side-note... I'm attempting to keep the arguments about the laws as they are and arguments about how they should be separate. We mix discussions of law and morals far too often around here to the general confusion of all.

  • ||

    Why should it have to be applied separately?

    To apply the punishment in a manner consistent with every other form of sentencing? We don't have blanket prison terms for "felons". Sentencing is offense-specific (and often degree-specific) in every other area besides disenfranchisement.

  • ||

    We don't have blanket prison terms for "felons".

    Huh? Yes we do. Fed law defines a felony as anything with maximum punishment in excess of one year, and then subdivides felonies and misdemeanors into classes based on the length of maximum punishment.

    And if you look under paragraph (b) there:

    (b) Effect of Classification.— Except as provided in subsection (c), an offense classified under subsection (a) carries all the incidents assigned to the applicable letter designation, except that the maximum term of imprisonment is the term authorized by the law describing the offense.

    It's entirely typical in our form of sentencing to say that "these are the sentencing and punishments that apply to class A, B, C, D, or E felonies." Plenty of specific incidents and effects apply to a crime on the basis of its classification.

    Your argument on the basis of consistency fails.

  • ||

    Again, I'd be open to changing it and letting people vote, but I don't follow your argument.

  • MNG||

    "Your argument on the basis of consistency fails."

    Does it? We don't give the same sentences for all classes you mention, except with disenfranchisement...

  • ||

    There are various "incidents assigned" to the different classifications. Many of them are, as the paragraph indicates, given to every crime in a class or set of classes, regardless of the exact statutory maximum sentence assigned.

    As soon as a federal crime is created, based on the broad range that its maximum sentence falls in and nothing else, it is immediately and automatically classified as a class of felony or misdemeanor. As a direct effect of that classification, various additional incidents and penalties are applied to people convicted of that crime, even if it not spelled out in the law-- to the contrary, a crime may be specifically exempted from those incidents by being added to the following paragraph.

    Losing the right to vote acts *exactly* as one of these federal incidents and conditions, some of which apply to one specific class, some of which apply to several, some of which apply to all felonies, except that it operates on a state by state level.

    So, like it or not, the treatment of the right to vote is entirely typical.

  • ||

    Not every class B felony has the same maximum sentence, but the additional federal laws, with their penalties and restrictions, that apply to all class B felonies apply to them all by virtual of the broad range into which their maximum sentence falls. And so on.

    The treatment of the right to vote is not an aberration. It may be misguided, but it's entirely of a piece with how the criminal laws of the this country are structured. Individual crimes and sentences are NOT independent, many of the penalties and conditions apply automatically to wide ranges of crimes.

  • ||

    Thus, we see that the sentencing section of the US Code specifically authorizes adding additional penalties and incidents to classes of crime, and automatically puts all federal crimes into a classification based on maximum sentence and adds all penalties and incidents of that classification to the crime (except for maximum length of sentence), unless specifically exempted in that same section.

    In short, yes, the sentencing law does explicitly give blanket additional sanctions on broad classes to crime without specifically authorizing it in the law making the offense illegal.

  • ||

    I'm attempting to keep the arguments about the laws as they are and arguments about how they should be separate.

    I think that several of us-- John, SugarFree, and I-- would agree that since it seems far easier politically to restore voting rights to felons than to decrease the number of felonies to a correct number, then as a practical matter restoring voting rights is the correct and moral decision.

    In some sort of theoretically ideal world we might prefer a sharply limited list of felonies that do restrict voting, but given our choices in the present, I would prefer to restore voting.

  • Rrabbit||

    If a state has a blanket ban on felons voting, then it is an implied part of their sentence. Why should it have to be applied separately?

    One important general principle is that law has to defined such that the possible punishments for breaking the law are known to the individual at the time the law is broken.
    This has several sub-items:
    o the potential legal punishments for the breaking the law cannot be increased after the individual has already completed the deed.
    o no secret laws and secret punishments
    o law must be worded and published such that the individual can know and understand both what is illegal, and what the punishment might be for breaking the law.

    I don't think that anybody can know and understand what the voting bans are in states outside their home state.
    Thus, I deem that voting bans for having broken the law in a different state are unjust in case that other state did not have such a voting ban at the time the individual broke the law.

  • Jean Valjean||

    +7

  • ||

    +24601?

  • ||

    Again you keep spreading this fantasy. If the law says you cannot vote after conviction as a felon then it IS a part of your felony conviction. The same thing applies to (legal) gun ownership. Become a felon, lost that right.

  • MNG||

    It's the law found in voter eligibility requirements, not in the penal code you goofball, so it is not part of anyone's sentence.

  • ||

    It's the law found in voter eligibility requirements, not in the penal code you goofball, so it is not part of anyone's sentence.

    The sentencing part of the US code specifically authorizes other parts of the law to add penalties based of classification of offense, and automatically classifies all crimes and gives them the penalties and incidents mentioned elsewhere in the law.

    It doesn't matter if the incidents are referenced elsewhere in the law, the sentencing US Code says that, yes, it is part of the sentence for the law automatically, even if not mentioned in the law making the offense illegal.

  • cynical||

    Can't you be? If you have a life sentence in a prison that requires you to work, then you obviously can.

    Felons probably shouldn't lose their right to vote in all cases, true, but I don't see why it can't laid down as a separate punishment (with a separate duration, longer or shorter) from their prison sentence and any other penalty or loss of legal rights they suffer.

  • David Rollins||

    I'm surprised Chapman doesn't make the point that these felon voters are significantly in favour of drug decriminalisation, since so many are locked up for victimless crimes. At least my theory (haven't seen any polling data). I suppose it's possible that while in prison many have been brainwashed / rehabilitated by AA, NA, SAA, and other twelve step programs that take an absolutist "drugs/drink/sex are bad, mmkay?" approach that might make one sympathetic to prohibitionist policies. If you are powerless over your addiction and must rely on a higher power, then of course Jesus/Gaia/FSM must want us to ban these substances.

    I have a few ex-felon friends, and most of them are casual marijuana users; it seems the all-or-nothing effect of 12-step programs tends to wear off after about a decade. Even my mother, a former alcoholic with 20 yrs in AA, is now a casual drinker.

  • ||

    I was wondering the same thing; if anybody can tell you how counterproductive the drug war is, it should be a person who's spent a decade behind bars for trafficking a powder. But yeah, I think a healthy percentage of people doing serious time for drugs end up convincing themselves that they were in fact wrong to do what they did instead of blaming unjust laws. I'd imagine that perspective would ultimately make incarceration slightly more bearable from a psychological standpoint.

  • Rrabbit||

    +10

  • LeSigh||

    I'd like to see some actual poll data. Legalization of drugs would cut into the price of drugs dramatically. I'm not sure how many drug dealers would go in for that just to avoid prison time.

  • Steve||

    How about returning voting rights after a certain amount of time out of prison and with no more convictions?

    PS: And yes WAY to many felonies...

  • Tony||

    John just say what you really mean: you're afraid of more Democratic voters.

    Everyone who is affected by government policy should have a right to have a say in the makeup of that government. To me that would seem to apply to imprisoned people at least as much as anyone else. They're under the heel of government every hour of every day. Certainly those who have served their sentences are entitled to enfranchisement.

  • ||

    Everyone who is affected by government policy should have a right to have a say in the makeup of that government.

    So we should abolish the voting age as well, as a matter of principle?

  • Tony||

    People under the age of majority are spoken for by their legal custodians, usually their parents.

  • ||

    People under the age of majority are spoken for by their legal custodians, usually their parents.

    Should the legal custodians get extra votes for the children then?

    In addition, isn't this fairly similar to the old argument of "married women are represented by the votes of their husbands?" Are you taking the position that denying women the vote was a perfectly reasonable policy choice, not a matter of morals or rights?

    I'm not just trying to be a dick here, it's an honest philosophical question. I think that given the reality of our choices, I would favor restoring voting rights at the least for those who have served their sentences, and maybe in general.

  • MNG||

    I think you can have a competency requirement that children and some mentally ill are not going to pass. I don't think most felons would fail such a threshold, unless you want to say they fail a "moral compentency" which strikes me as kind of weird.

    As to foriegners they have a homeland in which they can participate. Felons don't, they become the equivalent of slaves when disenfranchised. Now you become kind of like a slave when you are imprisoned too, but imprisonment differs from disenfranchisment in many jurisdictions in that it is tailored to the crime and limited.

  • ||

    unless you want to say they fail a "moral compentency" which strikes me as kind of weird.

    I personally don't find it weirder than a competency test based on age, or one that allows doctors to determine who are mentally ill. In any case, I thought people here liked to get away from "what strikes me as kind of weird" as a basis for law. Unfortunately, as we all know, it's impossible to get away from that-- as seen when people here disagree about any level of animal rights.

    but imprisonment differs from disenfranchisment in many jurisdictions in that it is tailored to the crime and limited.

    (I assume you don't mean "tailored to the crime" in the sense of giving a judge discretion, but rather different statutory maximums.)

    In any case, I'm sure you realize that this part is the weakness in your argument. Certainly it doesn't apply to depriving someone of the vote while still in prison. Would a broad rule of "someone who was a felon is barred from voting after being released for a additional period of time equal to his sentence" be acceptable, then?

    Regardless, if you concede barring someone from voting while being imprisoned, that raises further questions. Certainly many crimes have life sentences, which are not limited. If a government can say that crime A can carry a life sentence, and that voting can be blocked while one is serving time, then why can a government not legislate a lesser penalty of a limited term in prison but unlimited years with penalties like not being allowed to vote? That certainly goes on with limited life sentences where one is eligible for parole.

    Otherwise you end up approving the absurd situation whereby it's illegal for a state to let someone out of prison but not vote, but they could lock all these people up for longer and still not let them vote.

  • ||

    Everyone who is affected by government policy should have a right to have a say in the makeup of that government.

    And besides children, under strict application of this rule you could (and people have) make a strong case for foreigners voting. I myself might be persuaded by the strong case for foreigners to be able to make campaign contributions.

  • Tony||

    Sure, why not. I think a strong case could be made for Iraqi and Afghani citizens to have the right to vote in American elections.

  • ||

    Absolutely, and that's certainly IMO the most consistent stance with your other argument.

  • Contemplationist||

    Heh. We should be RESTRICTING the franchise, as per Bryan Caplan's Myth of the Rational Voter. This is plainly ridiculous. There should be no automatic "right" to vote. Infact I'd be darned happy if the franchise went back to its racist and propertarian past - only property-owning white males can vote. And oh, I'm not white btw.

  • Old Mexican||

    Let's keept it simple: If you have something to risk, like a house, a business, or assets, then you should be able to vote. If you do not, you should not have the right to vote. Period.

    Do you pay taxes on your property or assets? You can vote. Are you a punk kid with nothing more than your shirt and an iPod that mommy gave you for Christmas? You can't vote. When you produce some wealth and obtain assets, then you can vote.

    Why? Because people without property to risk will vote themselves LOOT. People WITH property would not.

    My case against felons voting: Once out of prison, do you own something that causes taxes, like a house? Ok, you may vote. You don't? Get lost, or get a job for a change.

  • Contemplationist||

    Hm I guess the simpler calculation is that if you are a "net taxpayer" or in the military, you get to vote.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Contemplationist,

    Hm I guess the simpler calculation is that if you are a "net taxpayer" or in the military, you get to vote.

    I don't understand why being in the military awards one with the right to vote. One joins the military voluntarily, just like one joins any other organization. Why would that make you eligible all of a sudden?

    I don't subscribe to Heinlein's thesis that military service confers one the right to be a citizen and vote.

  • cynical||

    Alternatively, ban the military and all officials and public servants. Basically say that you can either be in the government and directly wield government power, or you can choose the government but not have direct government power, but not both.

    While I wouldn't worry about "property owners", I do think that anyone who can't take care of themselves should not be able to vote, since their autonomy is compromised. Problem is that this is difficult to define.

    Probably the best solution is: If you take welfare of any sort, you cannot vote for two years. This rule doesn't apply to minors, but they can't vote until 18 anyway. Anyone else can vote, provided they pay taxes at a higher rate along with a fixed poll tax.

  • Steve||

    If you rent a house or an apartment, you pay property taxes (for the people that own the property)

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Steve,

    No, the property owner pays taxes, don't equivocate. As a renter, I don't care what the owner does with the money as long as I get to live in the house and it is maintained.

  • Steve||

    Hate rich people, raise their propery taxes. Rent goes up, damn rich people!

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat...

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Steve,

    And when government raises taxes on farmers I pay more for tomatoes. Does that mean tomatoes become assets?

    Again, you are equivocating.

  • Steve||

    They are assets to the guy I am buying them from.

    Requiring my consent to govern me is not based upon my bankbook (big or small). It is a right of man (to have his freewill respected). I make claim on the fruits of another only in VERY limited ways, as agreed upon in advance, and with mutual consent.

  • Tony||

    Once gain OM displays his insurmountable love of freedom.

    Does it not occur to you that people without property also have a stake in their government?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Once gain OM displays his insurmountable love of freedom.

    Oh, you don't?

    Does it not occur to you that people without property also have a stake in their government?

    NOBODY has a "stake" in the government, Tony, as nobody has a right to other people's property.

  • Tony||

    Where did property get into this? Government makes policy. It affects you. If you don't have a say in the makeup of that government, then you are living in tyranny. Why do you favor tyranny?

  • Steve||

    Money, wealth IS property, and it belongs to the person who freely earned it. Even when it is mutually agreed upon, taxes take property from someone -- do it with extreme care! It does not belong to you.

  • MNG||

    By stake Tony means they have to live under the policy the government makes, not "booty" in the pirate sense OM.

  • Tony||

    Also, the concept of property is something that requires government to define and legitimize. With no government, you have no claim to your property except insofar as you have bigger guns than the guy also claiming it.

  • Steve||

    I don't need the government to tell me what's mine; I need it to stop others from taking it from me.

    I will take your stuff though (no, just kidding)

  • Old Mexican||

    And MNG does not want me to point out when people make question begging assertions - *sigh*

    Re: Tony,

    Also, the concept of property is something that requires government to define and legitimize.

    This is as loopy as a "Who's on first" sketch.

    With no government, you have no claim to your property except insofar as you have bigger guns than the guy also claiming it.

    Which is ENTIRELY different than having the government have the bigger guns, right?

    By the way, with no government, people still managed to keep property and make contract - in the [not so wild] Old West. People SEEK to respect property as it is REASONABLE to do so, Tony [call it Pareto efficiency, Nash's equilibrium, whatever] - people do not need government to tell them this - bureaucrats are NOT that clever.

  • Tony||

    What part of the Old West was without government? Any system that legitimizes contracts and property rights is a government. It may not have been required to be as bureaucratic for denizens of the Old West as it is for members of a large advanced civilization, but it's still there.

  • Steve||

    Tony, where does my right to own property (or to speak) come from?

  • Tony||

    The social contract.

  • Steve||

    When the rights of blacks were outside "the social contract," did those rights still exist? Is slavery wrong just because we changed our minds, or is it always wrong?

    My rights exist outside of your agreement.

  • Tony||

    Rights that exist but aren't available aren't very useful. Where do they exist? In the quantum structure of the universe?

    Slavery is considered wrong these days, but it wasn't always so. And it doesn't matter at all to a slave whether he has some innate right if he never has the opportunity to enjoy it. Some would say it's not a right at all until it's protected.

  • Steve||

    I invite you to investigate and ponder what has become know as "natural rights." Others might call these "God-given rights." These were the ideas that gave rise to the enlightenment and the founding of our country.

    And yes, "not believing in God" is a God-given right!

  • Tony||

    Steve,

    Natural rights are bunk. Where were they for the first few hundred thousand years of human existence? Waiting to be plucked from the ether by John Locke?

  • Steve||

    They were busy being stomped on, but they were there.

    I am not free just because you in your great wisdom and kindness decided it was so. Blood was spilled, as it always must be, for the tree of liberty to grow.

  • Tony||

    So where was the right before, again? Physically, I mean. This is a physical universe, after all.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    What part of the Old West was without government?

    Pretty much all the territories beyond the Mississipi, ante bellum and post bellum, where individuals would hammer agreements and settle disputes without the presence of government. See:

    http://www.gordon.edu/ace/pdf/.....ngham;.pdf

    http://findarticles.com/p/arti.....5923/pg_2/


    Any system that legitimizes contracts and property rights is a government. It may not have been required to be as bureaucratic for denizens of the Old West as it is for members of a large advanced civilization, but it's still there.

  • ||

    Eh, I don't see much justification for property ownership as a voting prerequisite. Anybody who buys stuff pays sales taxes. Anybody who earns an income pays income taxes. It's virtually impossible to not partake in The Machine.

    Besides, revenue generation is not the government's only function. Civil liberties legislation presents a great risk to everyone, with or without property.

  • LeSigh||

    We all have something to risk: life and liberty.

  • ||

    I think non-violent felons who served their sentence should be allowed to keep their Second Amendment rights. So I certainly think they should keep their voting rights too.

  • MNG||

    I concur with both statements. The right to armed self defense has now been recognized as an individual right and incorporated to the states. You don't lose your 1st, 4th or 5th Amendment rights upon conviction, neither should you lose your 2nd (or your "right" to vote for that matter). With a violent conviction and the nature of firearms one might can argue that a restriction is "reasonable" but I don't think that flies with a non-violent convict...

  • Old Mexican||

    So... what was the case for letting felons vote? The above article does not make a case, it just explains what states have done, a rationale for letting some felons vote and some perceived results, but no case per se.

    What IS the case, then?

  • ||

    The case is that felons are people as well, that the rights and preferences of felons should be respected and given appropriate weight, and that consent of the governed is an essential part of liberty.

    They're all strong arguments, but in their extreme application all have weaknesses as well. I'm easily persuaded that we've gone much too far, and could be persuaded in abolishing the loss of voting rights as a matter of policy, but as a necessary universal principle applied everywhere and to everyone I can't help but play devil's advocate and want to discuss why the same arguments don't apply to children, to foreigners, and to imprisonment in general.

  • ||

    That's a fine film. Patrick McGoohan was particularly great.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    To me the issue is simple, it has to do with the reason why we all get to vote: consent of the governed and taxed is what provides the legitimacy of any government.

    That's begging the question, MNG. "We vote to make the government we voted for legitimate."

    Taxes and government do not become "legitimate" just because we vote it so. The government is no more "legitimate" to every person than a diner's club, certainly cannot have powers (like taxation or the power to thieve) that are not available to people (e.g. the power to thieve.)


    Are ex-cons asked to follow our rules and pay taxes? Then they should have a say in both.

    That's no reason to vote. People who come to this country are also asked to follow the rules and pay tariffs and duties. Should they vote on it as well?

  • Tony||

    Shorter OM: Only people who agree with my political beliefs should be able to vote.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Only people who agree with my political beliefs should be able to vote.

    NOBODY should be able to vote. You know my stance on that. One does not have the right to "legitimize" tyranny with a vote.

    However, since we're discussing who should vote, my contention is that the best option is not to let people that have no assets or property to vote, as they would vote themselves loot - this is REGARDLESS of the affiliation of property owners.

    So your analysis of what I said is wrong.

  • Tony||

    So property owners wouldn't also find ways to "vote themselves loot"? Everyone wants more loot.

    But thanks for confirming what I've been saying all along. You want an OldMexicanocracy, the will of the people be damned.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    So property owners wouldn't also find ways to "vote themselves loot"? Everyone wants more loot.

    Maybe, but property owners have more to RISK. Property-less people do not risk ANYTHING.

    But thanks for confirming what I've been saying all along. You want an OldMexicanocracy, the will of the people be damned.

    You have me all wrong, Tony - I don't want to impose ANY sort of government upon anybody. I am not as cruel as you are.

  • Tony||

    But you do. You want your form of government imposed, as you've amply demonstrated by even arguing against suffrage! It may be a minimalist or even nonexistent government, but it's still an imposition on people who most likely don't want it.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    But you do. You want your form of government imposed, as you've amply demonstrated by even arguing against suffrage!

    The argument against suffrage is not against government per se. Don't conflate the two. The argument against suffrage stands alone by itself, as people do not have a right to vote "legitimacy" for the State.

    It may be a minimalist or even nonexistent government, but it's still an imposition on people who most likely don't want it.

    You have a penchant for equivocation, Tony. NOT wanting a government is not the same as imposing one. I don't care what others do, if they want to live under the rules of the Kiwanis club, by all means - I am just not going to accept the rules of that particular club NOR can I confer myself the right to VOTE the same rule over others.

  • Tony||

    So what you really want is for the United States to cede part if its territory to you so you can make your own rules for it. Good luck with that.

    Maybe if you left your cabin in the woods/mother's basement and started interacting with other people you'd realize that "just leave me alooone!" doesn't quite cut it.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    So what you really want is for the United States to cede part if its territory to you so you can make your own rules for it.

    Did I say that?

    Maybe if you left your cabin in the woods/mother's basement and started interacting with other people you'd realize that "just leave me alooone!" doesn't quite cut it.

    I am sure that you get "Leave me aloooone!" quite a bit yourself, Tony...

  • MNG||

    "my contention is that the best option is not to let people that have no assets or property to vote, as they would vote themselves loot"

    What an amazingly poor argument, for the reason Tony points out at the least...

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    What an amazingly poor argument, for the reason Tony points out at the least.

    Use your head, MNG, for a change. People that have property have MORE to risk.

  • ||

    Even if you only let millionaires and billionaires vote the millionaires will point to the billionaires and say; "Hey! They don't need all of that money, they need to pay their fair share!".

    And when you say "More to risk" what the fuck do you mean in relation to the conversation? The elderly are the richest demographic, yet their concerns override any sanity when it comes to entitlement reform.

  • DJ Drugs||

    My take on OM's point is this;

    Imagine a super awesome minarchy. What powers the minarchy has can only be exercised on a smaller proportion of the population than our current system. It makes sense that only those subject to this micro-government should have any say on how it operates.

    For example, tt's feasible that this may be some kind of Georgist minarchy. Thus, it would then make sense that only property owners vote because they'd be the only ones effected by the government qua government.

    Or what about a government,though it may claim a monopoly on force, that is only funded by user fees.

    Well,maye only those that paid a fee should vote - and what exactly are they going to vote on, if it's a real minarchy? Fine points of contract law, perhaps?

  • MNG||

    What gives the state the right to tell us what to do? Most democratic theorists say it is the consent of the governed. Felons are part of the governed so their consent should be consulted as well.

    As to foriegners they are visiting. They have (or should have) a homeland in which their consent legitimates their government's governance of them.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    What gives the state the right to tell us what to do? Most democratic theorists say it is the consent of the governed.

    Which begs the question, as tyrannical regimes certainly had "the consent of the governed."

    "I obey my mommy because I consent to her being my mommy."

    Felons are part of the governed so their consent should be consulted as well.

    Begs the question. "My brother should also obey my mommy because he consents to her being his mommy."

    As to foriegners they are visiting. They have (or should have) a homeland in which their consent legitimates their government's governance of them.

    It is irrelevant that they are visiting or that they live in a country where they are taxed and enslaved - the argument YOU forwarded is: SINCE the reason to allow felons to vote is that they are asked to follow the rules and pay taxes, why doesn't that reason confer the right to vote to foreign people AS they are ALSO asked to follow the laws of the land and pay duties and tariffs?

  • MNG||

    You don't consent to someone being your mom. WTF?

    And your analogy is inapt. What you call begging the question is actually disagreeing with the statement.

    Lots of things could be thought to give a government legitimacy. I say one of those things is that the governed consent to the government. That's not begging the question as the conclusion is not assumed in the conclusion. Why is this so difficult for you?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    And your analogy is inapt. What you call begging the question is actually disagreeing with the statement.

    I disagree with the statement because IT BEGS THE QUESTION.

    Lots of things could be thought to give a government legitimacy. I say one of those things is that the governed consent to the government.

    And I have shown how that statement begs the question.

    That's not begging the question as the conclusion is not assumed in the conclusion. Why is this so difficult for you?

    It IS assumed in the conclusion, I already showed you:

    "Governments are legitimate because they have the consent of the governed"
    "Who are the governed?"
    "Those that voted to give their consent to government"

    Just like saying God exists because the Bible says He exists. Who wrote the Bible? God. QED[?]

  • DJ Drugs||

    I'd recommend people read Randy Barnett if they dont understand what he calls the bootstrapping fallacy.

  • MNG||

    And OM I can't help but notice your struggle with logic, especially begging the question, continues. Whenever someone doesn't state the entirety of their argument you scream "begging the question!" That's not how that works. Begging the question is assuming the conclusion in the premises (this is why it is called "circular argument" sometimes).

    Above I said that government gains its legitimacy from consent of the governed. That's no more begging the question than saying "government's which do not protect property rights are illegitimate."

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    That's not how that works. Begging the question is assuming the conclusion in the premises (this is why it is called "circular argument" sometimes).

    I am aeare of that. You on the other hand do not seem to be aware of your circular arguments, like the one that says "I said that government gains its legitimacy from consent of the governed:

    "governments are legitimate because the governed voted it so."

    That's BEGGING THE QUESTION, MNG.

  • Old Mexican||

    Don't believe me?

    "Governments are legitimate because they have the consent of the governed"
    "Who are the governed?"
    "Those that voted to give their consent to government"

    Huh?

  • MNG||

    It's only begging the question if by "legitimacy" I incorporate or mean the same thing as "consent of the governed." But I don't. You really don't understand this concept!

    Take this statement: "Exchanges that occur with the consent of the exchangers are legitimate." Is that begging the question? Because it is structurally the same as mine...

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    "Exchanges that occur with the consent of the exchangers are legitimate." Is that begging the question?

    No, because "exchangers" engage in exchanges, you are already defining the ACTION - if they're already acting in exchange, it was because the actors found it valid.

    Governments on the other hand are NOT the same thing as "the governed," first, and second, just because governments have "the consent" does not mean they're legitimate - as I pointed out, tyrannies surely have the consent of all governed; does that make tyrannies legitimate?

    You see, MNG, it it not enough that your premises are valid; the argument must be COGENT as well.

  • MNG||

    But the governed are not necessarily those that give their consent, my statement does not assume that is the definition of legitimacy.

  • Steve||

    There is never a legitimate reason to do something that is wrong. Slavery may have been legal because a majority permitted it, thus making it legal, but it never was legitimate.

    Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the ...

  • Tony||

    Wrong defined by whom?

  • Steve||

    You tell me Tony.

    Hint: It includes man's ability to reason, but not that alone.

  • Tony||

    I can't tell you because I don't know what makes something right or wrong. Best I can tell, people just sort of form a consensus about it.

  • Realist||

    By all means...what we need is more assholes voting!

  • ||

    Anyway you look at this morin thier have been many people with a felnoy release from jail or prison, who just want to get on with thier life, some have families some do not , some will have a hard time getting back into sociecty who has put up many restrictions on them.Others have mental defects, Some should never get out at all, However all rights should be restored to those that have done thier time . With all that said . Perhaps if you are CHILD MOLESTER you should be sent to the north or south pole . Or perhaps never be alowed out of prison at all..Question i have what should an should not be a felnoy. D.U.I. driving offenses. drug offenses. non payment of child support.. list goes on.

  • Tony||

    I apologize for once again getting sidetracked into a debate about the fundamentals of government with OM.

    Yeah basically certain parties are interested in suppressing voting rights for people who probably won't vote for them. It's a not-so-proud tradition in this country. Ex-con voting rights is a logical next step in increasing enfranchisement.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    I apologize for once again getting sidetracked into a debate about the fundamentals of government with OM.

    Don't apologize - better to use your time learning how to argue.

    Yeah basically certain parties are interested in suppressing voting rights for people who probably won't vote for them.

    Because those parties happen to be prescient and *know* how people are going to vote ex ante.

    It's a not-so-proud tradition in this country. Ex-con voting rights is a logical next step in increasing enfranchisement.

    Next step is to give voting rights to dogs and cats. That increases enfranchisement as well, if that were the goal.

  • ||

    remember voting (at the national level) is a form of behavior control intended to supress violent revolution by creating the perception of peaceful participation. therefore any form of perceived disenfranchisment weakens that revolutionary supression.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I feel exactly the same about the death penalty as I do the don't-ever-get-to-vote-again penalty. I'm for it theoretically, but I don't trust any government to implement it correctly, so I'm forced to be against it in real life.

  • ||

    This is a parody right? "Utah is still republican that proves there is no electoral effect." Utah being one of those notorious swing states likely to end up in either column. Make the case if you want but not with absurdly cherry picked non-sequiturs.

  • Xenocles||

    Utah is also known for its huge population of felons.

  • Arf?||

    I'm very surprised by the comments on this thread. Many of them seem to boil down to "I know these bastards won't vote my way."

    The state should never have the power to disenfranchise people. In a worst case scenario, everyone who disagrees with the state is a felon.

    When we say "but they are felons" what we are really saying is "but we trust the state when they say they are felons." That this may be justifiably true now, doesn't mean it will always be true.

    On the flip side, I think there is very little to gain by disenfranchising even rights-violating felons, because either we have a legitimate government in which no legal method (including voting) can violate our rights or... we don't.

    This is also why I am against the death penalty. It should never, ever be possible for the state to silence anyone.

  • Dave||

    I'm surprised as well. I would think that any true libertarian would be leery of the government declaring certain citizens felons and disenfranchising them. The proliferation of fascist laws has already made us all lawbreakers - all the state has to do is expand the definition of a felony and then it has the power to disenfranchise anybody.

  • Obviousness||

    But you see actual liberty is not quite as important to libertarians as making sure Democrats don't get elected and raise taxes on billionaires.

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  • ||

    Whether someone committed a victimless crime or not, or a felony or not, is irrelevant. Once they have been "rehabilitated", they should be returned to society as a "citizen in good standing" with all rights & privileges thereof.

    The philosophy once was, & ought to be, that once their time was served, they had "paid their debt to society" & their rights ought to be restored. If they prove themselves to be incapable of self-government (ie: are repeat/chronic offenders) then they ought not be returned to society at all.

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