Democrats have, in recent months, advocated for the rights of a whole slew of new people to have access to the ballot box. Illegal immigrants, children who are 16 years old, and freshly-released convicts among them. But now at least one of them is going a step further, insisting that felons currently serving time behind bars should not lose their right to vote.
At a speech in Muscatine, Iowa this weekend, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said that every other state should follow the example of his home base and let prisoners get involved in democracy.
“I think that is absolutely the direction we should go,” said the democratic socialist. “In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That’s bad. But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”
A 2002 Harris poll showed that while a majority of Americans favor giving felons the right to vote while they are serving on parole or probation, Sanders’ idea of giving felons access to the polling booth while still behind bars is not a popular one. The survey found that only 31% of Americans think people currently serving out a prison sentence should be able to vote. Granted, things have changed a lot since 2002, and it’s possible that recent cultural movements have expanded that number to some extent, we would still be surprised if the needle had moved much. Our country has a forgiving spirit, but we also believe in “do the crime, do the time.” And while you’re taking a time out from our society, you don’t need to have a say in our politics.
In a column last April, “conservative” columnist George Will argued that the government had no compelling interest in disenfranchising felons. “It is not a legitimate government objective,” he wrote, “for elected officials to fine-tune the quality of the electorate.”
Nonsense. Will is wrong, just as he has been on so many issues over the last few years. Government has an overwhelming interest in tailoring the electorate. If we agreed this was not the case, then indeed the Democrats would be right. We should immediately begin letting illegal immigrants vote. Hell, we should let their foreign relatives vote. Why not? Forget about extending the franchise to 16-year-olds; there’s no reason why we can’t bus kindergartners out to the local precinct every November. Don’t our young, precious treasures deserve a say in their own future?
Fact is, if you’ve proven yourself unable or unwilling to obey the law, you shouldn’t have a voice in tailoring that law for the rest of society. We can discuss when, if, or in what circumstances you can get that right back, but it should certainly not be while you are still serving out your sentence.
This is nothing more than another transparent attempt by Democrats to get more of their likely voters to turn out. You’d think they would be a little bit embarrassed about endorsing these schemes, but recent history has shown us that this is a party without shame.