Felons and Voting

In general, felons have no voting rights—it’s part of their punishment for having committed their crimes.  There also are growing movements to restore voting rights to felons—they are, after all, US citizens.  (I’m eliding here felons who aren’t citizens; they have no voting rights to restore.)

It’s a debate worth having, but a couple of misunderstandings need to be cleared up first.  These misunderstandings are illustrated in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

As the midterm elections draw closer, Dameon Stackhouse is eager to cast a ballot, but he can’t under New Jersey law because he remains on parole after more than a decade behind bars for second-degree robbery.

If he’s on parole, he’s still serving his punishment for his crime; he’s only entered a new stage of that punishment.  With his punishment still in progress, he shouldn’t get his right to vote back.  On successful completion of his parole—successful completion of the punishment society has said is required for his crime—then it’s worth seriously considering reenfranchising him and others in similar situations.

And this, from Stackhouse:

We have no say [without a right to vote].  This is one of the worst things you can do to a citizen.

No, Stackhouse did this to himself with his decision to commit his crime; no one else did this to him as a citizen.  His apparent inability to accept responsibility for the outcomes he created with his misbehavior in addition to the misbehavior itself does not suggest that his rehabilitation is being entirely successful.

I am spring-loaded to restore the franchise to those who’ve successfully completed their punishment—for the vast majority of crimes, there should be an endpoint to the punishment short of death, whether by execution or old age.  But the punishment must be completed before reenfranchisement.

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