Friday, July 25, 2014

All Americans deserve the right to vote

Past imprisonment should not disqualify felons and ex-convicts from participating in the democratic system

Attorney General Eric Holder has recently been ramping up his actions within the Department of Justice in contrast to his first few dormant years under the Obama Administration. With this new second wind, Holder has been tackling issues that have been near and dear to his heart, most notably the issue of racism and civil rights.

While President Barack Obama has been quiet on this issue, Holder has been noted to speak on this sensitive topic, often talking about the closeness of civil rights and criminal justice. His most recent speech at Georgetown University highlighted this point.

DISENFRANCHISED — In 2010, 5.85 million Americans could not vote due to a prior felony conviction. Google Images

DISENFRANCHISED — In 2010, 5.85 million Americans could not vote due to a prior felony conviction. Google Images

Speaking to a group of advocates concerning the need to reform the criminal justice system and mass incarceration, Holder spoke about the necessity of allowing felons the right to vote.

“Although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African-Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable,” Holder said.

While I believe that felons should be given the right to vote once their sentence has been completed, I believe while they are serving their sentence, they must realize that breaking the law does not allow you to take part in the judicial system.

Once they have understood this, it is paramount that we re-integrate them back into the society that their actions have separated them from. Because that individual has served his or her sentence, we as a people expect and hope that the individual chooses a new beginning — a fresh start after their time has been completed.

That is why I was surprised when I listened to people talk about the partisan impacts this would have on elections. I consider myself a Conservative, finding that my biblical beliefs most often line up with those of Conservative values.

However, I find myself disappointed as several Conservatives noted that a large majority of felons would vote Democratic, swaying the results of several high-profile elections. Take for instance this excerpt from an article on felon’s voting by Richard Winchester, a writer for American Thinker.

“The fourth facet of laws about voting is that there is no such thing as a nonpartisan statute affecting any aspect of voting,” Winchester wrote. “Every law governing the franchise has some disparate partisan impact, and people on both sides of the partisan divide know it.”

Other individuals cited the large number of African-Americans incarcerated, noting that the vast majority of African-Americans voted in favor of Obama. Granted, there are certain demographics that will invariably affect the course of voting along partisan lines.

However, this should never be a reason why voting is allowed for some and not others. Every individual should be given the right to vote, no matter their race, creed, tongue or tribe. Voting is something that has been taken lightly in recent years, and I see that trend growing among my generation.

People from around the world would give anything to be able to vote. To them, a vote is a chance to right the wrongs they see in their government. It is an opportunity to take part in what they perceive as a better future for their children and their grandchildren.

When people from both sides throw partisan conflicts and racial assumptions into the topic of allowing citizens to vote, it saddens me. Facts are facts, and some stereotypes exist for a reason. However, let us not allow partisan conflicts to muddle our view of who should vote and who should not.

Rand Paul has been a large proponent of allowing ex-convicts the right to vote. His home state, Kentucky, is one of the strictest states on allowing ex-convicts the right to vote.

Speaking at a state senate panel, Paul called for Kentucky senators to restore voting rights to felons.

Voting gives the citizen an opportunity to speak out against the injustices they see in the government of the people, by the people, for the people. Let us not limit this freedom based solely on the differences we do not like.

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