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Should Ex-Felon’s be allowed to Vote? Essay

Brief Summary

An estimated 5.85 million people (as of 2010) with a felony conviction are barred from voting in elections which is a condition known as disenfranchisement. Each state has its own laws on disenfranchisement. While Vermont and Maine allow felons to vote while in prison, nine other states permanently restrict certain felons from voting. Proponents of felon re-enfranchisement say that felons who have paid their debt to society by completing their sentences should have all of their rights and privileges restored. They argue that efforts to block ex-felons from voting are unfair, undemocratic, and politically or racially motivated. Opponents say felon voting restrictions are consistent with other voting limitations such as age, residency, sanity, etc., and other felon restrictions such as no guns for violent offenders and no sex offenders near schools. They say that convicted felons have demonstrated poor judgment and should not be trusted with a vote.

There is a lot of debate going on about weather ex-felon’s should have the right to vote or not. Some people say that there is nothing wrong with voting, everyone should have the right to do it. Voting is just giving your opinion. In the United States people are allowed to state their opinion. Just because someone does something wrong it doesn’t mean they should not be allowed to vote. Felons are still affected by laws made by politicians. Laws could be made about the court system or anything else that might have an impact on their lives. Since they are still a part of our democratic society, it would be wrong to take away the right to choose the people affecting them. While others disagree by stating that there is a reason why they are behind bars in the first place. They made the wrong choices in their own life.

If they can’t handle to make good judgments in everyday life, then why should we trust them to make a decision that effects all of America? They lost that privilege when they committed the crime, plain and simple. They made the decision to commit a felony, which proves they are incapable of making good decisions for society. They know what crime they are committing, and if they do not know what crime they are committing that is bad luck. Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to the law. In my personal opinion, I would have to say that I disagree on ex-felon’s to vote. I also believe that convicted felons are in prison for a reason. They committed a crime that was of a serious nature, whether it be robbing a bank, killing someone, raping someone, grand theft auto, etc. They did not make a level-headed decision and ended up in jail. We do not need these type of people voting for the people that run our country.

They obviously could not make a decision governing their own lives, so we should definitely not allow them to make those kind of decisions for the rest of us. Although the other part of the debate makes sense as well and we should be forgiving and giving the ex-felon’s another chance, I still think that what has been done cannot be taken away. I believe that if a person committed some kind of crime, there is a big chance that they will do it again. Even though I know a few people who changed their lives completely after they committed a felony, most of them return to their regular life style after some time. In order for a person to change completely, it must first start in their mind; they must change the way they think, and then their actions will be changing as well. There is also another side about allowing ex-felon’s to vote. Some felons do change their lives sincerely. In that case, I believe that it is not fair to not allow them to vote, since they have truly changed and have become a new person.

If that is the case, I do think that they should vote, but then we can never know who really changed and who is just lying about the fact that they changed. A lot of people believe that the right to vote in America is a key component of democracy. Democracy includes all Americans. For a democracy to work, it cannot exclude a large number of voters; simply because they are ex-felons. Once felons have served their time in prison, and are back in society; it is unfair to continue to punish them for the rest of their lives. Ex-felons maintain jobs and pay taxes; it is unfair to tax ex-felons but not allow them to vote. Restoring ex-felons voting and civil rights is part of effective rehabilitation. I think that if the felony that accurd did not harm any human being, it should not have any kind of effect on their voting rights because after all, a lot of felony’s are considered to be stealing food from a grocery store or some sort of supply.

What if the person who is steeling it don’t not have money to buy it and needs to provide for his family, so because of his mistake, he must be charge with a felony and not have the right to vote in a country where he is a citizen and probably still cares about his country. Voting is a right given to all US citizens by the Constitution. Since an ex-felon has been fulfilling their duties as citizens, they must be able to enjoy the full rights of citizens, which includes the right to vote. Also, ex-felon disenfranchisement violates the 8th Amendment. According to the 8th Amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” According to the Atkins v. Virginia Supreme Court case: The 8th Amendment “succinctly prohibits excessive sanctions.” Disenfranchising an ex-felon is an excessive sanction in the sense that it extends the punishment beyond the felon’s sentence. Furthermore, the 15th Amendment is violated by ex-felon disenfranchisement.

According to Section 1 of the 15th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Since ex-felons had already been released from prison, according to the 15th Amendment, they cannot be denied the right to vote. We can conclude that ex-felon disenfranchisement is unconstitutional. A disproportionate percentage of convicted felons are a minority race. According to the Guardian: The people overwhelmingly affected by felony disenfranchisement laws are minorities. Only 2.5%, 5.8 million people in the voting age population were made ineligible to vote by felon voting laws in 2010. That percentage tripled to 7.7% among African-Americans. Another way of putting this is that 38%, 2.2 million, of all those stopped from voting by felon restrictions are African-American. About a million African-American ex-felons are disenfranchised.

According to the Washington Post: In Virginia, Kentucky, and Florida, 1 in 5 African Americans are affected by felon disenfranchisement laws. This is way more than the amount of Caucasian individuals affected by the same laws in the same states, thus creating an imbalance at the ballot box. This creates discrimination against minorities, especially when they have the potential to change the outcome of a race. According to the Georgetown Law Journal: Felon disenfranchisement has tremendous effects on the political landscape – leading researchers report that felon disenfranchisement “may have altered the outcome of as many as seven recent U.S. Senate elections and one presidential election.” A felon is only released from prison, parole, and/or probation after they have abided by the law, paid off their fines and/or served their sentence. Ex-felons have already paid off their debt to society. Inflicting disenfranchisement upon them is unfair. They deserve the right to vote, no matter what they’ve done in the past. Many other countries allow felons to vote.

According to Think Progress: 21 out of 45 countries surveyed have NO restrictions on felon voting at all. Only 5 out of 45 countries bar felons from voting after they’ve served their sentence. These countries are doing quite well with felons being able to voice their opinions in politics. According to the 2012 Sentencing Project: Nearly 6 million Americans are barred from voting due to their previous conviction. This means that 1 out of 40 adults in this country cannot vote. America is supposed to be a democracy, but how is it democratic when so many otherwise eligible citizens can’t vote due to crimes they’ve committed and have already been punished for? These people deserve their full rights; they deserve to vote. That is why we should look upon what find of a felony the person committed and not just punish all people with a felony by banning them from voting. In another point of view, with many felons returning to prison within three years, how are we to be able to have faith in their good judgment?

These are obviously not simple crimes, and if so many return to a life of crime as soon as they get out, then why should they have the right to vote? Here is some interesting data: “Released prisoners with the highest rearrested rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).” This would allow all of these felons, most of which return to prison within several years for the same crime, to vote in elections. Why should citizens who have been convicted of a felon have the same right as those who have never been convicted of one? Certainly they are not of equal value to society when one was thrown in prison for being a danger to society.

If these felons are at risk of recidivism, of which many of them are, then I don’t quite think their judgment is valid enough to allow them to vote in elections that could affect the rest of society. In this case, we should really be careful about who we are letting to vote and who we don’t. Ex-felons could be a danger to our society as much as current felons are. Perhaps there should be a system in place for convicted felons to earn the right to vote. I feel that this would be a lot better than simply giving them the right to vote once they had served their time. This would ensure that we do not have voters with compromised judgments, and that they cannot vote before proving that they are able to be productive members of society. Otherwise, they may base their vote on a topic of interest, such as the legalization of a certain drug, etc.

In my opinion it’s too broad of a topic, a “felony” could be so many things. I believe someone who went to jail for not paying their taxes or a less serious crime should be allowed to vote (felony 3 and 4). However someone who has committed a felony 1 or 2 should lose that right, they are clearly not in their right minds and should not be treated as such. This is why there is a lot of Pros and Cons on whether to allow ex-felons to vote or not. I think that depending on the felony that they committed they should be judged and not have the same punishment as other felons who might have committed a much greater felony. There should be justice and fairness in any kind of crime.

Works Cited
Hill, Steven. Ten Steps to Repair American Democracy: An Owner’s Manual for Concerned Citizens. Sausalito: PoliPointPress, 2006. Marc Mauer, MSW Winter 2004 article “Felony Disenfranchisement: A Policy Whose Time Has Passed?” Winters Article, 2004 Bill McCollum, JD, “Felons Right to Vote” and article “McCollum: Be Responsible about Felons’ Rights, Apr. 1, 2007 Nichols, John. The Nation Voting and the Fight for Democracy: The Battle for Congress. New York, 2012


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