Prison Vote

Voting From The Hoosegow


During CNN’s town hall on Monday night, Bernie Sanders said prisoners should be allowed to vote. The response from most people, even fellow Democrats, seems to be, “Uh, do what now?”

Sanders was asked the question by a member of the audience, and he replied, “I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy — yes, even for terrible people — because once you start chipping away … you’re running down a slippery slope. I do believe that even if they are in jail paying their price to society, that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.”

To be clear, Sanders said this includes people like rapists, murderers, pedophiles, and terrorists, such as the Boston Marathon Bomber. Republicans replied to this with, “Thank you, Bernie. And it’s even gift wrapped.” Within minutes, the Republican National Committee sent out an email harping on Sander’s hoosegow vote policy.

Fellow candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren said the issue deserves a “conversation.” Mayor Pete Buttigieg was explicit in his opposition to it.

Voting rights is a huge issue in this country. For years, Republicans have been disenfranchising minority voters. They have engaged in gerrymandering, voter suppression, removing black voters from voting rolls in Georgia, creating new hoops to leap through for Native-American voters in North Dakota, and even voter intimidation in many cases. Even the Russians worked to discourage minority voters in their pro-Trump campaign in 2016.

The Trump administration is now pushing to remove undocumented immigrants from the census in order for blue states to lose congressional seats. That’s not a voting issue as much as it’s an effort for minorities to lose representation and give more to conservative voters. Republicans already believe white people deserve more representation than black voters. Don’t believe me? Go talk to one about the electoral college. They believe acres should have more representation than Democrats.

There are movements in several states to restore voting rights for felons after they are released from prison. Virginia and Florida have already passed laws restoring those rights (and Florida Republicans are trying to find a way to take them away again, despite the voters restoring those rights). Those rights should be restored as released prisoners are returning to society. They have a right to participate.

We should do more than have a “conversation” about how the American judicial system comes down harsher on black males, who make up around six percent of the U.S. population yet 37% of U.S. prisons. Serious reforms are needed. We can start by decriminalizing many drug offenses and making marijuana legal nationally. It’s stupid that it’s still illegal on the federal level. We could also stop calling the cops every time we see a black guy outside, walking down the street, cutting his grass, grilling, or just breathing.

As for those still in prison, Sander says we “should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.” No, we shouldn’t. But for most of those in prison, they took away their own right to participate in our democracy.

I accept that I’m more of a bleeding-heart liberal than the rest of the population. But even I don’t think it’s a rational idea to allow votes from prisons. Trump likes to call Sanders “Crazy Bernie.” With this proposal, that childish nickname will be echoed by people who aren’t just Trump sycophants. I don’t believe Bernie Sanders is crazy and I support a lot of his positions, but the jail voting idea is crazy.

Donald Trump belongs in prison more than he belongs in the White House. But if Democrats nominate Bernie in 2020, Trump will be back in the people’s house eating Big Macs instead of the big house eating nutraloaf.

When Trump is finally in prison, I’d like to think his influence and infection on our electoral process has ceased, and that will include him not voting. The lack of voting shouldn’t bother him too much since he never bothered to vote that much until he ran for president. His stupid kids didn’t even know how to register for the right primary and now one of them is a presidential adviser with a security clearance.

Let’s release more people from prison and restore their right to vote, and let’s put Trump in prison and take away his.

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