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Felons Should Be Allowed To Vote Essay

Article Info:

Felons Should Not Be Allowed to Vote. At Issue: Are American Elections Fair? Stuart A. Kallen. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006.

The article Felons Should Not Be Allowed to Vote argues that former felons should not have their voting rights restored once they regain their freedom. The author believes felons need to be deprived of their voting rights for life as a symbolic price they have to pay for violating certain social and legal norms. The article is structured in an unusual and, in my opinion, an effective manner. It first presents the arguments of those supporting the idea of re-enfranchising felons, and then provides the author’s reasons not to agree with the idea.

The first part of the article mainly focuses on the idea that the question of whether or not to renew one’s right to vote is strictly political: if felons cannot vote, then voting is no longer representative. In states like Florida, numerous districts with high crime rates would have practically lost their voting power since so many of its citizens have been disenfranchised. Such districts are likely to be populated by a particular ethnic or racial group that has higher crime rates, and therefore, this group would no longer be able to vote for the candidate they would otherwise have supported. Depriving felons of the right to vote for a lifetime means we would no longer have a fair representation of voters of different ethnic groups. This, on the other hand, may directly affect which candidate ultimately gets elected, and later on, what kind of executive decisions might be taken in favor of, or against, certain groups of voters.

However, the author of the article disagrees with this opinion by arguing that there are many other victimized and deprived groups that deserve more attention in advocating their rights than ex-felons. The author claims that if a certain person went on to disobey the law and the social values society generally accepts, he or she deserves never to have the right to vote restored since he or she is not that conscious a citizen in the first place. The author calls this denial of felons’ franchise for life a “debt” they have to pay back to society for harming one, or more, of its members.

I believe the topic being discussed is arguable, and just like how people cannot agree on whether or not the death penalty should be completely abolished, people are likely to disagree about the re-enfranchisement of felons as well. I believe what is important here is to stress that not all people who have ever been convicted of a crime should be treated in the same manner. I think we all will agree that murder, bank robbery, rape, and blackmail are crimes of different categories. In the same way, we do not sentence all felons to the same punishment, we should not talk about all felons as if they are the same. I strongly believe people deserve forgiveness, at least most of them do. While some will argue the right to vote is not quite that important in life, I think it can be a significant symbol of trust. If we trust someone enough to participate in the life of community, we will likely empower that person to justify our trust with their future behavior. At least I hope it is true for most cases.

I would disagree with the author of the article in that I believe that with the exception of felons who committed particularly serious or violent crimes, the majority of those who regain freedom also need to regain the ability to make responsible choices with the rest of the community, and that includes having the right to vote. Otherwise, if we keep reminding ex-felons of their former mistakes, they will never feel like they belong in the community and will forever remain deviants in the eyes of our society, and behave likewise too.

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Should Felons Be Allowed To Vote


The right to vote is a right that according to law is entitled to everyone, once you have reached the legal age of 18. But what happens if you break the law? Do you still have the right to choose elected officials, or once the law has been broken, has the right to vote been forfeited?

According to the constitution the Fourteenth Amendment grants to the states the authority to deny voting rights to anyone that has a criminal conviction. On paper this does seem to be pretty valid, if you break the law, things that at one time you were entitled to are now no longer allowed. If a murderer has been allowed to vote for a client, who may benefit the perpetrator, it is a safe bet that the victim’s family would be outraged. There was one incident in Israel, where the assassin of the late Yitzak Rabin was allowed to vote, which alarmed the former Prime Minister’s wife. There are two points in regards to why convicted felons should vote:

  1. Felons are still a part of society, and do engage in the democratic process. If laws are changed affecting the court system, this very well could impact their lives.
  2. The other point is this is one of many ways that lawmakers, in particular members of the Republican Party have tried to disenfranchise voters.

There are arguments in regards to both of these points. When you look at the war on drugs, many of the convicted felons happen to be minorities; and when voter turnout is low, it does favor the Republican Party, all one needs to do is to look at the mid-term elections of 2014, where voter turnout was the lowest since World War II; and there is pretty solid data, that the majority of voters from minority backgrounds do vote liberal.

What are the reasons though why felons should not be able to vote? Like everything else, there are limits to freedom, as ironic as that sounds.

  1. Many feel there is a reason people are in jail, and life is about choices. Should someone be allowed to make choices that could have an affect on other people’s lives?
  2. Voting is privilege; when someone broke the law they forfeited their rights. Ignorance is not an excuse, people should know better.

These are also valid points, and one needs to be responsible, but if people have paid their debt to society, it is important to integrate them into society. When felons are still doing time, should they still be allowed? I would say no, but when their debt is paid it is important to bring them back, and allowing them to vote is essential.


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