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Felon Voting

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Felon Voting

In the United States, people convicted with felony are barred from participating in voting in any election. According to Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (2008), it is estimated that about five million felony victims have been denied this chance, a condition referred to as disenfranchisement. Every state in America has its own law concerning disenfranchisement. Felons are only allowed to vote in Maine and Vermont states (Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 2008). Some states demand that felon re-enfranchisement should be enhanced to allow felons who have already completed their sentence to participate in elections. They argue that their privileges and rights should be restored by allowing them to cast votes. According to them, blocking felons from voting is undemocratic, unfair, racially, and politically motivated while opponents state that felons have poor judgment, and should not be entrusted with this fundamental right. This research paper gives a clear summary of two articles concerning their position on felon voting. The first article is Liberal and republication argument against the disenfranchisement of felons by Jeffrey Reiman, and the second one is Locked out: felon disenfranchisement and America democracy by Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen. Both articles indicate that disenfranchisement of criminal offenders who are already through with their sentences is ethically and morally wrong. The two authors lobby for the enfranchisement of all criminal offenders including those in prison. They indicate that blocking them from voting is undemocratic and unlawful. In their articles, they argue that all Americans should participate in elections since they have a democratic right entrenched in the United States Constitution.
Liberal and republication argument against the disenfranchisement of felons by Jeffrey Reiman Reiman indicates that currently, about 4.7 million citizens an equivalent to two percent of the total voting population have been barred from voting due to their felony conviction. He states that 1.7 million people out of the 4.7 million are through with their sentences and are not under any supervision of criminal justice (Reiman, 2005). Reiman argues that disenfranchisement of all criminal offenders who are through with their sentence is wrong. He holds the position of enfranchising all criminal offenders including those in prison. His stand follows the social contract theory, which shows the importance of rights to vote. The theory also implies that denying voting rights to felons who are through with their punishment in prison is wrong (Beckett, 2006). This is because felons who have served their sentences should have all their rights restored and not partially. The author opposes the argument by the standard classical republican on disenfranchisement, which states that felons lack civic virtues that are needed in proper exercising of their votes. He argues that this claim rests on an exaggerated notion on virtue difference between non-criminals and criminals. He also adds that disenfranchisement of felons is not a sensible policy of punishment. In this article, Reiman refers to felons who have gone through prison sentence as ex-felons because they have served their sentences. According to him, the United States is the only democracy that denies criminal offenders their voting rights because of escalation of crime. Jeffrey states that criminals labeled as felons are shaped by injustices and unjust biases that place them in lower social status characterized by numerous crimes. Imprisonment and conviction are imposed on African-American compared to the Whites, but there is a disparity in numbers across states (Procon.org, 2012). Most of the convicted felons in United States are people from lower economic and social ranks. This implies that the rule is biased towards the needy individual in society who has a high likelihood of committing a crime. In this article, the author opposes the Fourth Amendment, which supported disenfranchisement of felons as a way of keeping newly freed black slaves from voting. He indicates that this law was passed to deny people convicted with crimes their right to vote, which were mainly the Blacks. Reiman argues that the social contract doctrine should not have the power to impose disenfranchisement of felons (Reiman, 2005). Over the last few centuries, the country has seen numerous changes where many persons view voting as a basic right rather than a privilege. He believes that disenfranchisement of felons by social contract is a form of punishment. In the modern society, felons and ex-felons should be given their rights to vote like other citizens in the country. According to the author of this article, denying felons and ex-felons their right to vote is similar to denying them right to speak. This reduces their status in the society from being citizens to subjects. Reiman is clear on some of the benefits associated with enfranchisement felons and ex-felons. He indicates that allowing those convicted with crimes their right to vote is educational and rehabilitative (Reiman, 2005). Encouraging and allowing felons to participate in voting promote their engagement in social responsibilities. If they are denied their collective rights, they will end up disrespecting others in the society. Disenfranchisement also delays the acceptance of an ex-felon in society, which may lead to crime.
Locked out: felon disenfranchisement and America democracy by Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen Manza and Uggen provide a significant empirical basis on the legitimacy of disenfranchisement of felons. Like Reiman, these authors reveal the restrictive nature of felon voting right policies and laws. They are mainly concerned by the continued denial of right the to vote for the felons who have already terminated their sentences in prison. In this article, the authors demonstrate that felon disenfranchisement originated as a way of excluding African-American from participating in a democratic process (Manza & Uggen, 2007). This action is a race-related liberalism that emerged during the post-emancipation period. Disenfranchisement acts as an artifact of historical intentions of limiting people from democratic involvement based on race. According to Manza and Uggen, disenfranchisement is not a misrepresentation of democracy in the United States, but it is a reflection of racially, normative, and oppressive orientation. Disenfranchisement policies have been stipulated to preserve the integrity of the electoral commission in the United States; the two authors tend to oppose this notion (Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 2008). They indicate that ex-felons cannot threaten to taint the corruptness the political system of the country. They also add that, denying felons their rights to vote does not serve as a conventional purpose of punishment. In this article, the authors indicate that restoration of voting rights for the former felons is not certainly available due to disenfranchisement policies that have been set in different states. Manza and Uggen argue that defenders of ex-felon and felon disenfranchisement do not have an empirical evidence of political and moral values. According to them, the issue of racism forms contemporary politics of felon disenfranchisement (Manza & Uggen, 2007). To determine how various states have engaged in retaining voting rights for the felons and ex-felons, they have conducted several experimental surveys, where they interacted with felons who have regained their voting rights. Manza and Uggen view that felons should be enfranchised because their past convictions did not lead to loss of their citizenship. In this case, Manza and Uggen indicate that denying ex-felons and felons their right to vote is a form of democratic underdevelopment. The two authors indicate that disenfranchisement of African-Americans has an impact on their perception of democracy. They should be allowed to vote in realizing their identity as citizens. Their views of enfranchisement people convicted with crime appear as a challenge to the ideas that ex-felons and felons can exercise their voting rights in a way that will inspire and encourage crime if given the chance. To enhance political reforms in the United States, ex-felons and felons should participate in the general election. Their votes will have an impact in the elections especially that of the president. In Manza and Uggen’s research, they indicate that additional number of votes from ex-felons and felons are enough to cause a reverse in the outcome at the Electoral College (Beckett, 2006). Many key elections can be altered by these votes leading to full realization of democracy in the country. Restorative justice cannot be achieved if such democratic rights are not guaranteed. In conclusion, the two articles focus on felon disenfranchisement in the United States. This is by analyzing how various states in America have barred people convicted with crime from voting. The authors of the two articles lobby for felon enfranchisement. They indicate that people who have already terminated their prison sentences should be given their right to vote. As citizens of this county, they should be allowed to participate in the democratic process by casting their votes. Enfranchisement of felons and ex-felons will reduce the social gaps and lead to the creation of an all-inclusive democracy.
References
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. (2008). Voting for People with Felony Convictions. Retrieved from http://www.866ourvote.org/issues/felony-convictions
Beckett, K. (2006). Democracy and its discontents. Contemporary sociology, 37(2), 115-118.
Manza, J., & Uggen, C. (2007). Locked out: felon disenfranchisement and American democracy. Crime Law Soc Change, 47(0), 125–127.
Procon.org. (2012). State Felon Voting Laws. Retrieved from http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=286
Reiman, J. (2005). Liberal and republican arguments against the desenfranchisement of felons. Criminal Justice Ethics, 24(1), 1-16.

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