Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said over the weekend that convicted felons should retain their right to vote, even if they are serving time behind bars.
Asked at a town hall meeting in Muscatine, Iowa, whether prisoners should retain the right to vote, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was resolute.
Vermont and Maine are the only two U.S. states where imprisoned felons are not stripped of their voting rights. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia suspend voting rights for those imprisoned, while automatically restoring the franchise upon their release. In 22 states, felons lose the right to vote while incarcerated as well as for some period thereafter, such as while on parole. Conviction of a felony results in the indefinite loss of voting rights in 12 states.
Sanders said he believes that voting is a right that should never be taken away from an American.
“In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That’s bad,” he said. “But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”
While many Democrats have decried a move by Florida Republicans to erect roadblocks to Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to felons who have served out their prison terms, Sanders is the first to call for full voting privileges for those still behind bars.
The United States has some of the strictest laws in the world when it comes to disenfranchising those convicted of a felony. Numerous countries, including Canada, Japan, France, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Sweden and Zimbabwe, allow inmates to vote.
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