Should Congress allow formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote?

Awaiting Vote
Bill Summary

This bill would ensure and protect the right of formerly incarcerated individuals to vote in federal elections. It reiterates that everyone has the right to vote unless they are currently incarcerated or serving felony sentences at the time of a federal election. The bill states that disenfranchising citizens with criminal convictions who live and work in the community hinder their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. State disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities from voting. State officials and the Bureau of Prisons must provide written notice of one’s right to register and vote in federal elections at time of sentencing and release. Sponsor: Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat, Maryland) View full bill text ➔

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Opponents say

• "I don’t know any country in this world that allows criminals, convicted felons, to vote. That is not keeping them from committing their crime. It is called punishment. It is punishment for their crime. " Source: Rep. Greg Murphy (Republican, North Carolina, District 3)
• "Voting is a privilege; a privilege properly exercised at the voting booth, not from a prison cell. States have a significant interest in reserving the vote for those who have abided by the social contract that forms the foundation of a representative democracy. We are talking about rapists, murderers, robbers, and even terrorists or spies. Do we want to see convicted terrorists who seek to destroy this country voting in elections? Do we want to see convicted spies who cause great damage to this country voting in elections? Do we want to see “jailhouse blocs”' banding together to oust sheriffs and government officials who are tough on crime? Those who break our laws should not have a voice in electing those who make and enforce our laws. Those who break our laws should not dilute the vote of law-abiding citizens." Source: Senator Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky)

Proponents say

• "Voting is a fundamental right of citizenship and, under our Constitution, there is no legitimate justification for denying people who have paid their dues from having a voice in our democracy. The United States is one of the few Western democracies that allows the permanent denial of voting rights for individuals with criminal convictions. This must end if we truly want to reintegrate ex-offenders as productive members of our communities" Source: Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat, Maryland)
• "I think we should start by restoring the right to vote for everyone who is formerly incarcerated. Once someone pays their debt to society, they’re expected to pay taxes, expected to abide by the law, they’re expected to support themselves and their families, I think that means they’ve got a right to vote." Source: Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat, Massachusetts)
• "If we expect to live up to our national ideals of liberty and justice for all, we must ensure that our democratic process is as consistent and fair as possible. It’s not fair to deny the constitutionally-protected right to vote to people who have paid their debt to society. By reinstating voting rights for those who have been rehabilitated, we can empower people to become better citizens, reduce recidivism rates, and improve not only the health of our democracy, but of our communities." Source: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat, New Jersey)