Another Reason Not to be a Felon

Monday, February 27, 2006

Like I have to tell you this is from the NY Times' editorial page:

Stripping convicted felons of the right to vote is a slap at America's democratic ideals. Many states are backing away from this policy, understanding at last that voting rights are in fact basic human rights that should be abridged only in the rarest circumstances. That lesson has yet to penetrate the state of Washington, which has created a form of disenfranchisement that is straight out of "Oliver Twist."

Several states permanently marginalize ex-offenders by saddling them with unfair charges and fines that are supposed to help pay for public defenders, drug tests, halfway houses and other "services." But Washington leads the pack in dunning impoverished offenders. People who commit certain crimes are even charged for having their DNA registered in the offender database.

In addition to devastating poor families that can barely feed themselves, these fees push ex-offenders even further into the margins of society. And Washington's policy of stripping people of their right to vote until they can cough up enough money to pay these unfair charges is morally outrageous.
The biggest misconception we have about our "rights" as citizens is the supposed right to vote. Like it or not, no such right exists. It was only until after 1870, when the 15th Amendment was ratified, that any mention of the right to vote existed. It states: "the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude."

In other words, citizens do not have a fundamental right to the ballot, but cannot be denied the opportunity because they're black or were once a slave. Nowhere is it in written in federal law that felons can't be deprived of the vote.

How "morally outrageous" it is to deny felons the right to vote is I'm sure, pale compared to the act they committed that rendered them a felon in the first place.