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Give Felons the Vote? Eric Holder’s Interest in Restoring Their Rights Seems to End There

holder-felons-vote-gloom
Kevin D. Williamson writes:  Attorney General Eric Holder and a number of his progressive allies are calling for an end to laws that prevent many felons from voting after their sentences have been served. The cynical among us (and here I count myself among them) detect in this the odor of self-serving politics, but Mr. Holder et al. argue that it is a matter of justice. The argument is made on two main fronts: The first is that felons have “paid their debt” to society and therefore should be treated as ordinary citizens. The second is that our population of disenfranchised felons is disproportionately non-white and poor, and thus felon disenfranchisement falls most heavily upon communities already burdened with other disadvantages.

“Do the progressives have a point here, or is the drive to restore felons’ voting rights simply parochial Democratic self-interest?”

The first comes very near to an argument about first principles, about which debate is generally fruitless. Either it seems to you just and prudent that people who have shown a fundamental disregard for the law should be prevented from having a hand in making it, except in those circumstances in which the relevant authorities have made case-by-case judgments to the contrary, or it does not. My own view is that felon disenfranchisement is generally just, and that, even in those circumstances in which it is questionably so, prudence counsels disallowing felon voting as a broad principle.

But what of the second argument? Do the progressives have a point here, or is the drive to restore felons’ voting rights simply parochial Democratic self-interest?

Voting is not the only right of which felons are stripped. If justice demands restoring felons’ voting rights, then surely it demands restoring other rights to them as well.

For example, felons are barred in many places from serving as public-school teachers. While that may strike most of us as eminently sensible for certain classes of felons — sex offenders, the habitually violent — it generally covers all felons, including those convicted of nonviolent, non-sexual offenses such as credit fraud and tax evasion. In many cases, it includes felons who have been pardoned. Some public-sector jobs are denied to felons on obvious grounds — working as police officers, for example — but in some jurisdictions felons are categorically excluded from all government employment. Federal rules specifically prohibit felons from holding many government jobs. And many private-sector jobs are off-limits to felons as well.

If justice demands that felons be restored all of their fundamental rights, then how can we justify employment discrimination against them? Read the rest….

National Review Online

— Kevin D. Williamson is a roving correspondent for National Review.

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One Comment on “Give Felons the Vote? Eric Holder’s Interest in Restoring Their Rights Seems to End There”


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