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Criminal Penalties: Losing the Right to Vote?

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Oct 24, 2008 | 0 Comments

Being convicted of a crime could mean the criminal justice system will subject you to fines, prison/jail time and/or community service. However the fallout for criminal convictions will affect more than what a judge or prosecutor can hand down.For example, voting privileges are often revoked for people convicted of a felony. Vermont and Maine are the only two states that allow virtually all inmates to vote.In Vermont, the position on voting rights is enshrined in the state's 1793 Constitution: "Any elector who shall receive any gift or reward for the elector's vote, in meat, drink, moneys or otherwise, shall forfeit the right to elect."Nationally, states began restricting felons' rights to vote in the early years of the 19th century, said Alexander Keyssar, a Harvard University historian and author of "The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States."In most states, people incarcerated on misdemeanor convictions can vote. In some other states, there are circumstances that allow some felons to vote. One reason for restricting the right to vote is retribution, to punish a felon for violating the norms of society, while another is to protect the purity of the ballot box, he said.In the 1790s the Vermont Legislature tried to outlaw inmate voting, but it was overruled in 1799 by the Council of Censors, a now-defunct fourth branch of government that met every seven years to decide constitutional questions, said Montpelier attorney Paul Gillies.The most recent effort to outlaw prison voting in Vermont came in the early 1980s. The office of then-Secretary of State Jim Douglas Tagged as: california criminal laws


Ericka Carlos on October 27, 2008 at 10:41 p.m. wrote: (COMM ST 174) I support the idea of convicted felons losing their right to vote. As a defendant, these individuals were granted their constitutional right to a trial by jury. Granted- twelve strangers found the defendant guilty, therefore the individuals' status is no longer that of a 'free man,' but of an inmate. Free men have the right to vote. Voting is frequently thought of as a civil duty, insinuating that 'responsible' citizens vote. Convicted felons and other inmates weren't 'awarded' prison time for their responsible citizenship. Regardless of the individuals' background (I don't care if once upon a time they were a political analyst and are well informed), they are criminals and forfeited certain rights the moment they committed their crime. Gon Carpel (Comm 174) on October 27, 2008 at 1:50 a.m. wrote: I don't believe that voting rights should be revoked from anyone for any reason. If we are to have a true democracy everyone's voice should count and count equally. Why is someone sitting on death row less deserving of a vote than I? Just because he or she has broken our society's laws doesn't mean that person is no longer a member of society. Regardless, a state should not have the ability to determine who gets to vote in the federal election. These sort of laws lead counties to purge entire voter lists because the records of their criminal pasts are unclear. We should be encouraging greater voter participation in this country, not finding ways to take people's most basic democratic right away.

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Find me on Google+ Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...


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