Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is facing criticism for saying incarcerated Americans shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
Last night, at a huge CNN Town Hall event with five Democratic candidates, the issues of votes for incarcerated felons came up when Bernie Sanders was asked if all people, even the Boston Marathon bomber, should be allowed to vote.
This is how Sanders answered:
I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away… you’re running down a slippery slope.
So I believe that [when] people commit crimes they pay the price, when they get out of jail they certainly should have the right to vote. But I do believe that even if they are in jail… that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.
But Buttigieg had a different answer, arguing that incarcerated felons should not be allowed to vote until they are out of prison.
Asked by CNN whether prisoners should be allowed to vote in prison and upon their release, Mayor Pete said:
While incarcerated? No, I don't think so. I do believe that when you're out and you've served your sentence, part of being restored to society is that you're part of the political life of this nation again. One of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote, some communities and some states do it but some don't.
I think we'd be a better country if everyone did it, and frankly I think the motivations for preventing that kind of re-enfranchisement, in some cases, have to do with one side of the aisle noticing that they politically benefit from that, and that's got some racial layers to it.
I believe re-enfranchisement, is important but part of the punishment when you're convicted of a crime and you're incarcerated, you lose certain rights, you lose your freedom. I think during that period it does not make sense to have an exception.
Kamala Harris was also asked about the issue and essentially dodged the question – saying “I think we should have that conversation”.
Although, she did suggest she would back votes for ex-convicts.
The issue of votes for incarcerated felons is a controversial topic - mainly due to many state laws dating back to the late 19th century, when Southern lawmakers tried to stop black voters.
Because of that history, a lot of people reacted angrily to Buttigieg’s answer.
And other people criticised him over how his position ignores flaws in the US justice system and imprisonment.
The framing of the question was a particular issue for some people, who pointed out that the Boston Marathon bomber is a sensationalised example and does not reflect typical incarcerated felons.
And the backlash showed how enthusiasm may be cooling towards Buttigieg, after he had a major “moment” earlier this month and saw a sudden surge in support.
No matter where you stand on this issue, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Democratic nomination process is only in its earliest stage.
2020 is still a long way off and there are going to be lots of other issues to discuss.
While the backlash is bad for "Mayor Pete", it doesn’t mean we should rule him out just yet.
HT: The Daily Dot