Editorial: Prison voting is Sanders’ slippery slope
Both the federal and Pennsylvania governments are making admirable progress in criminal justice reform.
They are finding new ways to structure sentences. They’re changing mandatory minimums. They’re giving people who have served their sentences Clean Slate laws that make it easier to not just get back to the straight and narrow, but to stay on that path.
They are making it so you don’t have to check a box on a job application that says “Yes, I was in jail,” and in a show of putting money where your mouth is, Pennsylvania proved it was all in by hiring Brandon Flood, a former legislative aide who did time for drug and weapons violations to serve as the secretary of the state Board of Pardons. Who better to understand the people applying for clemency than someone who was pardoned just weeks earlier?
But U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a Democratic presidential town hall aired on CNN that he is in favor of voting for felons. No, not the restoration of voting rights for someone who has done their time and been successfully returned to the community. He advocates voting for those still incarcerated, no matter the crime.
The candidate for the White House in 2020 made it clear that he supported voting “even for terrible people,” and that deciding which crimes should preclude that is a slippery slope.
It really isn’t. While convicted criminals still have civil rights, they don’t have freedoms that have been surrendered during the term of incarceration. Voting is one of those.
America is struggling with getting people to the polls. Where some countries have holidays for elections and people pack the streets for the opportunity to have their say, Americans can be apathetic about it. Young people aren’t motivated. If your party is likely to win, you’re less likely to show up.
And then there are the roadblocks for people who do want to vote. Your polling place might be too crowded. Your state may have tossed your registration for suspect reasons. There are lots of things that come between a voter and a ballot. We should be working to put ballots in their hands, not in a cell block.
Let’s motivate people to become involved members of their communities when they get out of prison. Hold a job. Be a good citizen. Volunteer. Vote.
But not during the term of the sentence. That’s the slippery slope.