Politicians argue their opinions on a variety of topics, including but not limited to the economy, immigration, foreign policy, and taxes. However, one topic has dominated their stance on criminal justice: The right of incarcerated people to vote. Historically, this topic has been associated with particular political inclinations. Supporting this right has been linked to the Democratic Party, and denying it has been associated with the Republican Party. This is a question that has significant ramifications for our nation since it deals with the applicability of constitutional rights. This issue has been unnecessarily politicized when its resolution is just common sense: People in prison should not have the right to vote. Period.
The right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental right of a citizen in a democracy. However, a democracy is built on the laws that keep it running smoothly. Most incarcerated people have broken at least one law to end up where they are. Each time a law is broken, the stability of a democracy is threatened. Therefore, is it safe to entrust that democracy’s future in the hands of those who threaten it? Absolutely not. Granting prisoners this right is an insult to those law-abiding citizens who respect the laws of their country. By granting these people the right to vote, the nation has placed a great deal of trust in them–trust which was broken when they ended up in jail. Once lost, trust takes a while to build back. Moreover, granting the very same people who disregard the law the power to elect someone who can make the laws is an affront to the legitimacy of laws in this country. Do laws even mean anything if people who break them have a say in their creation?
Don’t get me wrong, everyone makes mistakes. Naturally, there should be a road to redemption for everyone. A good way to ease incarcerated people back into this privilege is to give it to them when they’ve proven they are worthy of it. For minor infractions like jaywalking, the punishment they’ve already received is sufficient. Taking away their voting rights is not necessary. If the criminal has committed a misdemeanor, they need to finish their sentence and prove that they can handle the privilege by staying out of criminal activities for at least two years. Convicted felons have a harder path to redemption. These criminals have proven that they are dangerous to society and the fate of the country would not be safe in their hands. To even have a chance of regaining their right to vote, they must finish their sentences, stay out of crime for five years, and be certified by multiple officers that they aren’t threats to society anymore. In this way, all citizens, law-abiding or not, have a way of rectifying past mistakes.
Voting is ultimately an integral part of a democratic nation like ours. Such a sacred privilege cannot be entrusted in the hands of incarcerated people who have fundamentally violated democracy. Though harsh, this punishment is necessary to maintain the safety of our country. However, all is not lost. Through the process mentioned before, incarcerated people can regain this privilege, thus ensuring a safe and righteous country for all citizens.