This bill allows felons to vote after their sentence has been completed and does not allow felons who have been convicted of a sexual felony to vote. In 2016, an estimated 6.1 million people nationwide could not vote because of felony disenfranchisement, according to research from The Sentencing Project. (
Felon. In criminal law, a felony is a category of crimes that are often classified as the most serious types of offenses, and they can be either violent or non-violent. Felonies are typically classified as mala in se crimes. … Criminal fines may also be imposed forfelony charges, often in the amounts of thousands of dollars [Legal Match]
Convicted. Convicted means to be found guilty of something.
Jim Crow. As the show’s popularity spread, “Jim Crow” became a widely used derogatory term for blacks. Jim Crow’s popularity as a fictional character eventually died out, but in the late 19th century the phrase found new life as a blanket term for a wave of anti-black laws laid down after Reconstruction [History.com]
Legacy. A legacy is something that survives after one’s death.
Recidivism. Recidivism refers to the idea that one will commit crimes again after one serves a jail or prison sentence.
Notes about the bill
Felons who are in prisons. You should note that this bill only extends voting rights to felons who have served their sentences and are out of prison. Most states already allow felons who are out of prison to vote. A lot of the articles are discussing whether or not felons who are in prison should be allowed to vote. Please read carefully when looking for arguments and ideas.
The sexual felony exemption. It’s unclear why this bill added an exemption for sexual felonies, as this is not common in current law related to the issue. Two implications — (1) You might want to offer and amendment to the bill to get rid of this exemption. (2) Since the exemption is not common in states where ex-felons are allowed to vote, adding it may actually reduce the number of felons who can vote.
Federalism/federal authority. Under the US Constitution, authority is divided among different levels of government — federal, state, and local. One area of authority that is reserved to the states is criminal law — states are responsible for making laws in this area.
Since this is a bill, it has the federal government intrude on an area of authority of state power.
Kevin R. Reitz, law professor at the University of Colorado, 2001 (ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE, January, pp. 126‑7)
Any movement toward a national sentencing policy will quickly collide with the traditional view that criminal law enforcement‑‑of which sentencing is a crucial part‑‑should be left predominantly to state and local governments. Not only can local officials be depended upon to guard their jurisdiction with jealousy, but the principle of local control over criminal justice has been one of federalism’s rare truisms through the twentieth century. Lyndon Johnson’s crime commission in the 1960s and Herbert Hoover’s in the 1930s operated on that unquestioned assumption. If anything, the view applies with particular force to decisions about punishment
Not only is such a bill likely unconstitutional, but passing it would likely result in a disruption of federal-state power, concentrating power in the hands of the federal government and risking tyranny.
Federalism is key to checking unbalanced power in the government, preventing tyranny.
Steven G. Calabresi, Associate Professor, Northwestern University School of Law, December 1995; Michigan Law Review, “A government of limited and enumerated powers,” p. 785-6
Second, there is another important advantage to American federalism. With two levels of government, the citizenry, to some extent, can play each level off against the other with concomitant reductions in the agency costs of government. History teaches that government agency costs, even in a democracy, can become quite high. It is thus no accident that Americans have thought from the time of the founding onward that liberty would be preserved by having two levels of government that could serve as checks on one another. We have seen already that national government cannot be expected to process all dispersed social knowledge as if it were omniscient. Similarly, it cannot be expected to exercise total governmental power as if it were benign. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A national government unchecked by state power would be more rife with agency costs and more oppressive than the national government we have. The existence of the states as constitutionally indissoluble entities provides a vital bulwark from which citizens can organize against tyranny. As Andrzej Rapaczynski brilliantly has shown, the existence of state governments helps citizens solve the collective action problem of organizing against tyranny. The states do help preserve freedom because they can rally citizens to the cause of freedom, helping to overcome the free rider problems that otherwise might cause national usurpations to go unchallenged by the “silent” majority of unorganized citizens. Conversely, the national government can organize a “silent” majority of citizens against state oppression – as it did in 1861 or 1964 – more effectively than could a loose confederation, military alliance, or free trade association. Constitutionally indissoluble national government also helps citizens to overcome collective action problems in fighting usurpation or tyranny at the state level. The success of the American Union in fighting might be contrasted here with Europe’s inability to police Bosnia. It turns out that there is a great deal to be said for having “an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.” Federalism, like the separation of powers, is a vital guarantor of liberty.
Benefits of the Bill
Reduced racism. Since black men are disproportinoately incarcerated, laws that make it difficult for people in prison to vote make it difficult for groups of people to protect their own interests. In this way, a failure to protect the interests of African Americans in the political process could result in a lower allocation of resources to their communities and continual loss of opportunities for those communities.
Right to vote. Voting is a foundational right and taking it away with incarceration is undemocratic. When people are convicted of crimes, we do not take away their citizenship, so why take away their right to vote?
Problems with the Bill
Federalism. See above.
Character. Some argue that committing a serious crime demonstrates a lack of moral character and decision-making ability, so people with poor character and decision-making ability should not vote.
Rule of law. If someone doesn’t follow the law, why should they have a chance to vote to determine it?
Diversion. Focusing on reducing racism by providing voting rights for felons diverts us from the real problem –the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans.
Top 10 Pro and Con arguments (2018). This is a quick review of basic pro and con arguments on both sides of the topic.
Can Felons Vote? It Depends on the State (2018). This article explains how the right to vote for Felons varies by state, which makes sense since election law and criminal law are state issues.
Criminal Disenfranchisement Laws Across the United States (2019). The Brennan Center offers a similar overview of the varying state laws: Millions of Americans are excluded from our democratic process on the basis of criminal disenfranchisement laws. These laws strip voting rights from people with past criminal convictions — and they vary widely between states. Kentucky and Iowa impose lifetime disenfranchisement for all people with felony convictions — unless the government grants an individual pardon. And they are only 2 of the 32 states that bar community members from voting, simply on the basis of convictions in their past. Navigating this patchwork of state laws can be exceedingly difficult, especially because election officials often misunderstand their own states’ laws.
Disenfranchisement disproportionately affects African-American voters. And while there is no data on the income status of the disenfranchised population, the prison population is generally low-income and working class, said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. “If you’re not willing to follow the law, then you should not have a role in making the law for everyone else,” wrote Roger Clegg, who worked in the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, and Hans von Spakovsky, who worked in the George W. Bush Justice Department, in a National Review op-ed.
The future of restoring voting rights to ex-felons (2018). The landscape on allowing convicted felons to vote has been changing. Many states now allow ex-felons who have completed their sentences to vote. Most notably, in this recent election, Florida voters decided to allow ex-felons to have their voting rights restored upon completion of their sentence, which reverses the previous law that imposed a lifetime ban on ex-felons voting. Asking a court to reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor, or expunge a conviction, would be another way an ex-felon could become eligible to vote.
Booker swipes at Sanders over restoring voting rights (2019). We need to focus on the problem of mass incarceration, not whether or not those who are incarcerated can vote Sen. Cory Booker on Monday called out Sen. Bernie Sanders over his support for restoring voting rights to convicted felons still serving prison time, drawing a rare explicit contrast with one of his 2020 rivals. In an interview with PBS Newshour, Booker called the debate over voting rights for incarcerated felons “frustrating” and suggested it distracts from the larger, more urgent question of mass incarceration, which has been a policy focus of Booker’s campaign.
Pro — Websites
Pro — Articles
Restoring the right to vote (2018)
Felon voting rights (2016)
Yes, but not while in jaile
Should felons be allowed to vote? Yes, but...(2016) Felons should be allowed to vote — but not until they have completed their sentences (including any period of probation or supervised release), paid at least a part of any court-ordered restitution to their victims, and proven they are now willing to abide by the rules implemented by society.