Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking away voting rights of felons is stupid and possibly unconstitutional

Taking away voting rights of felons is stupid and obviously ripe for abuse. I did a quick Google search so I could pick and choose some quotations that spell it out, from the discussion here.

So, I was thumbing through (as much as this is possible on the internet) the Constitution and something struck me:

Many states restrict felons right to vote either entirely or until they've completed their supervised release, parole, or some other criteria.

This "involuntary servitude" (aka jail time) is allowed by the 13th Amendment of the Constitution which states:

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Basically, this is important because it defines the punishment for a crime as involuntary servitude.

Then, the 15th Amendment then reads:

1. 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.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Since the Constitution clearly says that prohibiting the right to vote based on previous conditions of servitude, which the Constitution itself defines in the 13th Amendment as punishment for a crime, State laws prohibiting the right of Felons (or any other criminals) to vote is Unconstitutional and should be overturned.

I think this poses a danger for democratic systems. There becomes a political motive to moving people into the non voting class by setting up felony laws with a political component.

For instance if we made a law that not going to church a felony, only church goers could vote to repeal it which means it would never happen. Its a somewhat absurd example but I only mean to illustrate the mechanism we should guard against.

Anyone convicted of drug sales or significant possession has committed a felony and if never allowed to vote it virtually guarantees that most supporters of changing drug laws are unable to vote to have them repealed. If such laws are unjust they are self ensuring so long as enforcement is effective. Any potentially unjust law that results in a felony makes those most familiar with its injustice unable to actually vote to change it. Its a system that can easily serve tyrant and injustice.

Laws like those against murder theft or assault are in no danger of being overturned based on the votes of felons alone and to be honest I doubt many murderers or thieves would even support overturning such laws so long as they are not currently incarcerated as they don't really want to suffer from those crimes themselves.

Why isn't this obvious to everyone? Oh yeah, humans are stupid.

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