Prisoners should be allowed to vote

Samuel Ogali , Courier Staff

On Monday, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave a very surprising answer that made people very shocked and somewhat in awe.

In a town hall meeting with CNN, Sanders was called out for his support on wanting to permit incarcerated prisoners, such as murderers and sex offenders the right to vote. Sanders would go on to support his answer by emphasizing the inherent right every citizen in this country has to the right to vote and even acknowledged that “terrible people” had that right as well. Now I emphatically supported Sanders’ campaign in 2016 and wanted him to be the Democratic nominee over Hillary Clinton because I believed that he wanted to bring resounding change to the government and political system in Washington D.C., but this revelation by Sanders in my opinion is just flat out wrong.

An incarcerated person who has committed such heinous acts such as murder, sexual assault, child molestation etc. should not have the right to vote under any circumstances. Everyone is born with an inherent right to vote, but in my opinion, the person who committed such horrific acts forfeited their inherent rights and should not be treated as an average citizen by having any influence in the electoral process.

When I saw the town hall meeting and Sanders’ response, it truly troubled me because to me and anyone else, this should be a black or white issue. Issues pertaining to healthcare, immigration, foreign policy are nuanced issues that are not presented with such a crystal answer, but a rapist not having the right to vote while in prison is. I like Sanders, but honestly an answer like that is almost disqualifying to me because it shows a complete lack in judgement as a lawmaker, yet alone a presidential candidate. The true discussion that should be taking place is whether a person should have the right to vote once they’ve been released from prison and have truly paid their debt to society, and for me they should.

Once an ex-felon has left prison, I believe that the person should be allowed to vote if they’ve truly acknowledged their mistakes and have proven that they’re in the process of bettering themselves. This includes community service, rehabilitation and abiding the conditions of parole; when such acts are taken that show the person re-entering society is truly a changed person, then yes they should restore their right to vote because that’s only fair and just. However, granting that right while the person is still in prison is not only ludacris, but reckless.

When candidates were also asked about the subject, California Senator Kamala Harris didn’t really give a definite denial or agreement with Sanders, which was surprising to me with her past as a prosecutor, but South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg disagreed with such a notion and agreed to such conditions if the prisoner was released.

The one quality a lot of people, and in particular young people, like about Sanders is his authenticity and honesty for what he believes in, it’s what’s made him stand out among other politicians. However, such a statement by Sanders on this issue only turns me off and has me thinking about supporting other candidates for presidency.