Should convicted felons be allowed to vote? Senator Bernie Sanders believes they should not have that privilege taken away from them. Critics rhetorically ask whether anyone really believes that Oklahoma bomber Terry Nichols and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should vote in the next election. They realize the proposal for what it is: an attempt to get more votes for Democrats.
But if we set aside the blatant attempt to get more votes, the question of whether felons should ever be allowed to vote again is an important question. A good example would be Chuck Colson. After he served time in a federal prison, he was released but not allowed to vote. When he was alive, he would often remind non-voting Christians that it took 30 years to have his voting rights restored. They shouldn’t take that privilege for granted.
One of his illustrations was a young person in his early 20s who was convicted of three drug offenses. If he served his time and got his life together, why should he be denied the right to vote? Kevin Williamson, in a recent column, reminds us that someone who falls behind in court-ordered child-support payments could be charged with a felony. Sure, you should pay child support, but most Americans would not consider even a deadbeat Dad on the same moral plane as the domestic terrorists I just mentioned.
We deny felons the right to vote for the same reason we don’t let them practice law. We don’t trust them with legal or political power they have already demonstrated they do not respect. Of course, we also don’t allow them to buy guns or engage in a variety of activities.
If the candidates pushing voting rights for felons would also be talking about restoring other rights to convicted felons as well, it might be easier to take their slogans more seriously. But we should have a discussion about whether rehabilitated criminals should have voting rights restored.