by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, has called for extending voting rights to prisoners currently incarcerated — all of them, he says, meaning: Terry Nichols, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Nidal Hasan, sundry Aryan Brotherhood bosses, a blanket immunity that presumably would have covered the late Charles Manson before he went off to his eternal reward.
As a matter of political calculation, the Democrats probably are less interested in supermax-cloistered terrorists than in African Americans, who were more than twice as likely to vote Democrat as white voters in 2018 (90 percent vs. 44 percent) and who are about five times as likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lives. One study puts the number of black men convicted of a felony at 33 percent, a genuinely shocking figure, and there is evidence that African Americans also are more likely to be wrongly convicted.
Startling as these figures are, it is not obvious why the restoration of convicted felons’ voting rights is a good idea at all, much less something that should be at the top of the agenda. We exclude felons from voting for much the same reason that we generally exclude them from practicing law: We do not trust them with that power because of the contempt for the law they have demonstrated.
When challenged on felon voting, Democrats ask rhetorically: “Why should these men and women continue to be punished after they have served their time?” It is an unserious question asked by unserious people.