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Everyone Deserves the Right to Vote

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Chris Lugo

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:54 pm    Post subject: Everyone Deserves the Right to Vote Reply with quote

The right to vote is a fundamental right which belongs to all Americans. Unfortunately the justice system has made it very difficult for some five million Americans who are no longer incarcerated but have previous felony convictions to exercise that right. This is an unreasonable limitation on the rights of those who have served their time and has an enormous impact on the national dialogue, limiting the rights of potential voters and skewing the results of elections.

One example of the impact of felony disenfranchisement is Florida in the 2000 elections. In addition to the thousands of voters who were illegally purged from the rolls, the butterfly ballots and general shenanigans involving the recount, thousands of potential voters were simply not allowed to vote because they had prior felony convictions. If there was ever a historical example of where voting matters, the presidential elections in Flordia between Bush and Gore in 2000 are the example.

The issue of felony disenfranchisement is only one part of a corrupt system that is in vital need of overhaul and reform. According to James Austin, the president of the JFA institute and co-author of the report Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America's Prison Population, the criminal justice system is in need of "wholesale reform." Austin says that our resources are misspent, our punishments are too severe, and our sentences are too long. He says that the United States is "clearly overusing" the prison system and not using more beneficial alternative forms of correction.

On February 29th the Pew Center released a new report which estimates that one out of every one hundred Americans is currently incarcerated, and that this is the highest rate of incarceration in US history. The report went on to show that five states pay as much or more on jails as they do on schools.

Clearly our priorities are misguided and it is time to change things regarding how we deal with the issue of corrections. Fundamental to restoring civility and dignity to the national dialgoue is restoring the right to vote for convicted felons. These men and women have served their time and paid the price that society requires for their infractions, and it is time to give them a second chance.

Limiting the right to vote only further punishes men and women who are working hard to become members of society in good standing, it affects the outcome of national and local elections and is an undue burden on the poor and minorities. It also has a deeper cost that cannot be measured. Restoring the right to vote doesn't just affect our basic democratic expression, it also has profound affects on that individual's sense of self and their sense of identity. It impacts on the sense of fairness and justice of the entire society. Common sense and morality calls us to address this injustice.

Chris Lugo for US Senate
9 Music Sq So #164
Nashville, TN 37203
[email protected]
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