As soon as the holiday season is over, politicians all over the nation will begin campaigning in earnest for both local elections to be held in 2014 and congressional mid-term elections. Americans may not always exercise their right to vote, but it is a right that many have fought and died for. The choice to use one’s vote or to refrain from voting is personal. But the right that one has to make this choice is valuable beyond measure and should not be taken away unless absolutely necessary.
According to a recent Sentencing Project report, more than five million American citizens are currently prohibited from voting due to their criminal records. Some bans are temporary, while others are permanent. Florida is one of only a handful of states that prohibit inmates, former felons, parolees and probationers from voting.
Most states only ban some of these populations from voting. Once an individual is no longer an inmate, is no longer on parole and is no longer on probation, he or she will be allowed to vote again in the vast majority of states. But in Florida, many former felons may not vote even if they have served out their sentences.
Our nation is currently embracing sentencing reform in regards to drug crimes, rehabilitation options for drunk drivers and transition assistance for former inmates struggling to make an honest living as they move back into wider society. Why then, are we still prohibiting so many people from exercising their right to vote, even after years and years have passed since they left prison and successfully completed terms of probation or parole?
Source: MSNBC, “Presumed guilty: Ex-felons face barriers to voting rights,” Ari Melber, Nov. 4, 2013