Earlier this year, Democrats in Washington proposed sweeping election reforms that included expanding early voting for at least 15 days, allowing voters to register on the day of an election, and limiting states’ efforts to purge voter rolls. Bernie Sanders wants to go even further.
Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, said recently that he believes felons should be allowed to vote — while still in prison.
“I think that is absolutely the direction we should go,” Sanders, among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said at a town hall in Iowa.
Vermont is one of two states — Maine is the other — that allow prisoners to vote. Oklahoma is among roughly two dozen states where felons lose the right to vote until after they have completed their sentences and parole or probation. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia restore felons’ voting rights immediately after they’re released from prison.
In Iowa and Kentucky, felons’ voting rights are lost for good. Iowa’s governor, a Republican, backs the idea of a constitutional amendment to let convicts who have served their sentences to be able to vote again.
We have long supported Oklahoma’s law, but can understand calls to ease the post-release disenfranchisement of men and women who have been locked away. That sentiment, shared by many conservatives such as the Koch brothers, was evident among Florida voters in November when they gave 65 percent approval to a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons who had completed “all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.”
As George Will wrote in advance of that election, “A felony conviction is an indelible stain … The rule of law requires punishments, but it is not served by punishments that never end and that perpetuate a social stigma and a sense of never fully re-entering the community.”
Fair enough. Sanders, however, goes too far with his call.