NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 8, 2005

Should convicted murderers be allowed to vote? If the federal Count Every Vote Act of 2005 passes, they will be, says the Washington Times.

The bill --sponsored by Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski and others --would mandate felon voting across the country, regardless of state law.

The senators wrote the law in denial of some basic legal facts, says the Times:

  • Most prominently, the 14th Amendment makes felon voting a state prerogative, not a federal one.
  • It guarantees as much by allowing states to disenfranchise citizens guilty of "participation in rebellion, or other crime."
  • The Supreme Court confirmed this position in November when it declined to hear two felon-voting cases from New York and Washington state.

The senators' bill, by contrast, declares in no uncertain terms that: "The right of an individual who is a citizen of the United States to vote in any election for Federal office shall not be denied or abridged because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense," excepting current inmates and parolees.

If Congress passes the bill, it would enfranchise an estimated 1.2 million new voters, according to research by Manza and Uggen with Marcus Britton.

Federalism allows for such state-level experimentation, and it is at the state level where the consequences of new felon-voting laws will best be judged. Congress should let the process play itself out, as the Constitution allows it to, says the Times.

Source: Editorial, "Felons and Democratic politicking," Washington Times, March 8, 2005.


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