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Bernie's bad voting proposal

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Earlier this year, Democrats in Washington proposed sweeping election reforms that included expanding early voting for at least 15 days, allowing voters to register on the day of an election, and limiting states’ efforts to purge voter rolls. Bernie Sanders wants to go even further.

Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, said recently that he believes felons should be allowed to vote — while still in prison.

“I think that is absolutely the direction we should go,” Sanders, among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said at a town hall in Iowa.

Vermont is one of two states — Maine is the other — that allow prisoners to vote. Oklahoma is among roughly two dozen states where felons lose the right to vote until after they have completed their sentences and parole or probation. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia restore felons’ voting rights immediately after they’re released from prison.

In Iowa and Kentucky, felons’ voting rights are lost for good. Iowa’s governor, a Republican, backs the idea of a constitutional amendment to let convicts who have served their sentences to be able to vote again.

We have long supported Oklahoma’s law, but can understand calls to ease the post-release disenfranchisement of men and women who have been locked away. That sentiment, shared by many conservatives, was evident among Florida voters in November when they gave 65 percent approval to a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons who had completed “all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.”

As George Will wrote in advance of that election, “A felony conviction is an indelible stain … The rule of law requires punishments, but it is not served by punishments that never end and that perpetuate a social stigma and a sense of never fully re-entering the community.”

Fair enough. Sanders, however, goes too far with his call.

He said in Iowa that inmates are already paying a price for committing a crime, “But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote.”

We would argue that law-abiding citizens have a right to vote. With any right comes at least some responsibility, and following the law should be the least of those responsibilities given the importance of voting.

Sanders, on the other hand, says he believes voting is one right that no American should ever have revoked.

Another Democratic candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said recently that she’s OK with letting felons vote once they have served their time. While they’re behind bars, though, “I think that’s something we can have more conversation about,” she said. That’s the much more reasonable approach.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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