Tag Archives: ought

Bernie Sanders Got It Right on CNN: Felons Ought to Be Allowed to Vote

Bernie Sanders Got It Right on CNN: Felons Ought to Be Allowed to VotePhoto Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/GettyIn their CNN town halls Monday night, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg disagreed on whether current prisoners should be able to vote. Sen. Kamala Harris refused to endorse a plan for expanding the franchise to incarcerated people, but supported voting rights for former prisoners.Sanders was specifically asked about Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and “those convicted of sexual assault.” What sane person would want them to vote? Our political system is already run by crooks. Do we want to add murderers and rapists too?In European history dating to Roman times, criminals could be stripped of their legal personality after committing a crime. They could not sign contracts or own property. They were outlaws, banished from the city walls. John Locke and other political theorists argued that criminals broke an implicit social contract: a rule-breaker should lose the right to make rules for others. But Locke lived in a time when only white, male, wealthy landowners could vote. Today, the right to vote is enshrined in democratic constitutions and international treaties. In American history, many states’ exclusions of those with a criminal record from voting date to the post-Civil War period and were clearly aimed at denying the franchise to African Americans. Criminal justice reform advocates argue that suffering a Medieval-style “civil death” dehumanizes prisoners, prevents their reintegration into society, and perpetuates inequalities in our political system. We should not assume that prisoners are less knowledgeable about politics than those outside of prison—that’s a pretty low bar, after all. Encouraging prisoners to feel involved in the political process can have real benefits too. Isolating prisoners from the political process during and after their incarceration further stigmatizes and isolates them, and that can encourage reoffending.Prisoners lose many of their rights when they go to prison. They can’t serve on a jury from a prison cell, or own guns; both of those are probably reasonable proscriptions. They probably should not own guns. But prisoners do not lose all their rights in prison. They are entitled to practice their religion and can challenge the conditions of their confinement. Taking away prisoners’ liberty is already a heavy punishment. Allowing them to cast an absentee ballot is not an unreasonable privilege.The most important consequence of allowing prisoners to vote is that it would remove the incentives for “prison gerrymandering.” In most U.S. states, prisoners are counted by the census based on where they are incarcerated, not where they are registered to vote. Because most large prisons are in sparsely populated rural areas, prison complexes have an important effect on gerrymandering. Many prisoners are racial minorities or people who live in urban areas, which means these places lose voting population, while more conservative areas gain nonvoting population. This advantages Republican congressmen in places like upstate New York, who benefit from inflated populations for redistricting purposes, but have nothing to fear at election time. Prisoner disenfranchisement therefore contributes to a structural disparity that causes Congress and state legislatures to be more conservative than the public at large.While many states are in the process of revising their laws to allow ex-prisoners to vote, voting by current prisoners only exists in Maine, Puerto Rico, and Vermont—the latter represented by Sanders in the U.S. Senate. In addition, the trend across the developed world is to allow at least some prisoners to vote. The supreme courts of South Africa, Canada, and Israel have legalized voting for at least some prisoners. The European Court of Human Rights has also rejected blanket prohibitions on prisoner voting, though it has allowed exceptions.The policy options are far broader than a single audience question would suggest. In Germany, prisoners can vote unless they were convicted of terrorism or political violence, an exception that would encompass Tsarnaev’s marathon attack. Other European countries prevent violent criminals, those serving lengthy or life sentences, or war criminals from voting. Exceptions for crimes of dishonesty or fraud might be reasonable as well. In a few countries, only those convicted of misdemeanors can vote, rather than felonies.These are policy debates we should be willing to have. Even if we allowed only persons serving misdemeanor sentences in local jails to vote, this alone might add nearly 300,000 voters to the rolls. Prisoner voting is already underway in some states and developed countries, so it is hardly a revolutionary position. Overbroad restrictions on voting help ensure that politicians select their own voters, rather than voters electing their own politicians.Andrew Novak is Assistant Professor of Criminology Law and Society at George Mason University.Read more at The Daily Beast.



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The Latest: Pelosi says Biden ought not be so touchy-feely

The Latest: Pelosi says Biden ought not be so touchy-feelyWASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on former Vice President Joe Biden (all times local):



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Kellyanne Conway: Adam Schiff ‘Ought to Resign Today’ Over False Collusion Allegations

Kellyanne Conway: Adam Schiff ‘Ought to Resign Today’ Over False Collusion AllegationsWhite House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Monday that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff “ought to resign” in recognition that his oft-repeated claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was not born out by special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year investigation.“You have Adam Schiff, talk about an oxymoron, this man heads the Intelligence Committee in the House,” Conway said, adding that Schiff once suggested that “that the scandal is of a size and a scope probably bigger than Watergate and that there is plenty of evidence of collusion.”“He ought to resign today,” she asserted. “He has been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years promising Americans that the president would be impeached or indicted.”Conway's comments come one day after attorney general William Barr delivered to Congress a four-page summary of the Mueller report, which revealed that the special counsel “did not find anyone with the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”Schiff, who has long-claimed that there is “plenty of evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, on Sunday clung to his previous assertions, saying that Mueller's inability to prove collusion beyond a reasonable doubt doesn't exonerate Trump.“There's a difference between compelling evidence of collusion and whether the special counsel concludes that he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the criminal charge of conspiracy,” Schiff told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”



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Trump: Cohen's cooperation with prosecutors 'almost ought to be illegal'

Trump: Cohen's cooperation with prosecutors 'almost ought to be illegal'President Trump continues to fume over the betrayal of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, with the president suggesting Cohen’s cooperation with prosecutors should be illegal.



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