Why felons should lose the right to vote

Dear Editor:

In response to Mr. Cartagena’s letter, “We cannot fear democracy,” why prisoners should vote, I say, that if you’re not willing to follow the law, then you should not have a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote — either directly (in the case of a referendum or ballot initiative) or indirectly (by choosing lawmakers and law enforcers).

If politicians, who are so expert at winning over vulnerable and low-informed crowds with emotional pandering to generic compassion and gratification, it would also lead to not only criminals but also children, non-citizens, and the mentally incompetent being allowed to vote. In fact, we do have certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility and commitment to our laws that we require people to meet before they are given a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government.

People who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens don’t meet those standards. And those crimes can include such “non-violent felonies” as, say, treason and espionage, or voter fraud and public corruption, white-collar crime and felonies merely “concerning drugs” — like trafficking in fentanyl-laced heroin and selling it to minors, for example.

I for one am uncomfortable with politicians and their appointees deciding who can vote and who cannot vote. If these politicians are uncomfortable with the Constitution, which implicitly provides for voting rights when it leaves the choice of deciding who votes to the states (with some specific prohibited qualifications, such as race and sex), who else then would these politicians have making the decision who votes — judges? Please.

I agree that we must facilitate the re-entry into society of released prisoners who were not improved by the experience of incarceration. But it is precisely because such a high percentage of criminals who are released are so unimproved that they find their way back into prison (nationally, more than half) that it makes sense to wait some period of time, as Florida does, to make sure that the felon really has turned over a new leaf.

After that period of time — then the felon could have the right to vote restored. It should be rather like a naturalization ceremony, at a courthouse with friends and family present to celebrate, some official making a nice speech, American flags, and the felon raising his right hand.

Now that would be a way to incentivize the reintegration of the felon back into civil society. But automatic re-enfranchisment would miss that opportunity. And it would inevitably re-enfranchise thousands, maybe millions, of felons who have not changed their ways, so that people unwilling to follow the law would be making the law for everyone else.

John Amato