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Posted at 5:58 PM ET, 01/18/2010

Virginia is right to limit felons' voting rights

By editors

By Roger Clegg,
Falls Church

Regarding the Jan. 13 editorial “Virginia’s disgrace”:

There is no “disgrace” in Virginia’s policy of denying the vote to people who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens. It makes sense to require that certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility, loyalty and trustworthiness be met before individuals are allowed to participate in the sacred enterprise of self-government. Children, illegal immigrants, the mentally incompetent and felons do not meet those standards. Put another way: If you are not willing to follow the law, you cannot demand a right to make the law for everyone else.

The right to vote can be restored, but it should be done carefully, not automatically, and on a case-by-case basis, which is what Virginia does. And a three-year waiting period after serving a prison term is reasonable, given that “two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested and one-half are re-incarcerated within three years of release from prison,” according to a report by Harvard University’s Richard Freeman.

As for the role of race: While it is true that African Americans make up a disproportionate number of felons, they also make up a disproportionate number of crime victims. If all felons are allowed to vote, those whose votes will be diluted the most will be the law-abiding people in high-crime areas — the poor and minority communities whose well-being liberals always profess to champion.

The writer is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

By editors  | January 18, 2010; 5:58 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Virginia, crime  
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If you are not willing to follow the law, you cannot demand a right to make the law for everyone else.
Excellent point!

Posted by: Davidsonville | January 19, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

YOU Pay your Dues to Society

You should have your rights returned..PERIOD!!

Especially the right to VOTE

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | January 19, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Hu, with all respect I just don't buy the "You paid your dues to society" argument. After all, we don't let felons possess firearms or serve on juries, even after they've served their time; surely nobody would say that a sex offender has a right to work in a public school once he's been released. The point is that we don't forget completely about the crime even though the time has been served. (I should also note that many of those behind the felon-voting efforts believe that the right should never be lost, even when the time is still being served!)

Posted by: rclegg1 | January 19, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

You should be able to vote no matter what the person done. We are children learning everyday in this world. We dont come out of the womb nowing all laws. People break laws everyday. We loose people everyday to new laws. sooner or later there wont be people to vote. We should let know one no have a choice. Let not have freedom. Lets just be judgers are whole life. Also who has not done something wrong. Are you the perfect person. Imagine not being apart of something are you more willing to follow those people or be more recentful.

Posted by: btbarnes | January 19, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I find your article unpersuasive nonsense.

Your point of view is based on this premise: 'It makes sense to require that certain minimum, objective standards be met before individuals are allowed to participate in the sacred enterprise of self-government.'

Almost half of America's adults do not bother to vote. So I guess they do not regard it as a 'sacred enterprise'.

Your requirement of 'responsibility, loyalty and trustworthiness' does not typify every voter. You claim that it is an objective test and yet it has all of the hallmarks of subjectivity. Your test cannot be and is not implemented.

There may be a strong argument to stop prisoners voting but it cannot be said that you have made it.

Try again.

Posted by: robertjames1 | January 19, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

If the felon has done his/her time, then they've paid their debt. We want them to have a stake in society. Let them vote. As a free person they also have a right to representation if they're paying taxes. Just ask the folks in D.C.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 20, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

What about 10 years after they have finished their sentence? 20 years? 30 year? 40 years? A blanket ban is unnecessary and counterproductive. What is the point of continuing to marginalize people who have turned into productive and responsible citizens?

Posted by: bperk420 | January 20, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

No way!! If one is convicted of a felony they should lose more then their ability to never vote again. They should NEVER be given the same rights as someone who actually abides by the law and not deal cocaine, hold up banks, or refrain from being a pedophile, etc. They had their rights before committing a heinous crime, if it were so important to them they wouldn't have committed the crime in the first place. A convicted felon can never run for political office, can never get any type of government job, never get any job with any type of security clearance, so the ability to vote should permanently be revoked. There probably aren't too many jobs worth a hoot that they will ever get. If anyone out there is a business owner how many felons would you trust keeping control of your books, work a cash register, or trust from not stealing from you? Besides the fact how much could you really rely on them to be at work on time and actually do what they are supposed to do. If a convicted felon was working, and the companies employees, customers, clients or shareholders found out the ramifications would be disastrous. There is no way if I were a business owner I would hire a felon. If the insurance companies that are covering said business find out, they might pull the plug on coverage, esp. if something unforeseen happens. If a convicted felon employee stole from the cash register and/or assaulted a fellow employee or customer then what happens when that information goes public? I heard recently, the case is presently being appealed, that in Washington State the libs out there think that not only is it OK for felons to have their so called rights restored to law abiding citizens, putting us all on the same footing, but they are trying to make it where felons behind bars can vote. Sorry bad idea all across the board. I'm sure the likes of Madame "Botox" Pelosi, "Dirty" Harry Reid, and the rest of the wreckless libs would like to see this happen, so right there this make giving voting rights back to convicted felons a horrible idea.

Posted by: chrlefe | January 20, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

There is not a person within our active society that has not erred in their life, most just don't get caught.
Considering the FACT that all is NOT fair and balanced within the world we live or within our own lives, only RIGHT that once a person pays his/her dues for their wrongs they should be allowed back into society and not branded with the scarlet letter for the rest of their lives just because some of our loudest citizens wish to punish an offender of societies rules for the rest of their lives. Forgiveness is essential to move onto a higher playing field .

Posted by: daydreamers | January 21, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

As a convicted felon I am allowed to petition the courts to regain my voting rights. Considering the rate of recidivism among felons, I agree that they should not automatically get their voting rights back; it is something they should be required to prove they deserve.

I am putting this question to all of the hysterical commentors above who believe that "once a person pays their dues, they should automatically get their civil rights back": Would you entrust your child to a person who had been convicted of child molestation and paid their dues? Child molesters actually have a lower rate of recidivism than drug abusers (the #1 reason for felonious conviction). If you would not allow this person near your child, why would you allow him near a voting machine?

No one forced me to get hooked on drugs. No one forces another to deal drugs, mug people, rob banks, abuse children or kill people at random. It is something we have done of our own free will.

I feel the rush to create more laws that penalize more people is counterproductive but Joe Sixpack will gladly agree to more restrictive laws until he gets caught up in them (such as laws that create sex offenders out of people caught urinating in public, or making teen aged children "sex offenders" for taking pictures of themselves naked).

If people cannot follow the rules of society, or cannot be bothered to legally change the laws they find unfair, they have no right to vote.

Posted by: Lee451H | January 21, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

People who commit crimes have chosen to no longer participate in society as a legal citizen. They had their day in court where they were presumed innocent, someone had to prove they were guilty to 12 other people.

The victims of felonies such as rape can have consequences that last a lifetime like unwanted pregnancies and either having a child or choosing to put it up for adoption or abort it. Murder victims don't even have a life. It is relatively evenhanded that criminals also receive lifetime consequences.

Posted by: RazorGirl | January 21, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

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