Voting is not for felons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Last week, the Alabama Legislature had a bill before them to restore convicted felons’ rights to vote. If passed, it would have restored the sacred freedom of voting to felons once they have served their sentences and cleared all their debts to society including fines and restitution.

The Alabama House of Representatives spent five hours debating the bill. Thank goodness it failed, but it will inevitably come up again in the future.

Presently, once felons serve their time and pay their debts, they can retrieve their voting rights if the Board of Pardons and Paroles pardons them. That is fair enough.

While voting is a sacred freedom and a right we all hold dear, the fact that it is taken away from criminals, including felons is a part of their punishment. They chose to lose certain rights when they chose to commit a crime. They gave up those rights.

One could argue that most felons are not well educated and may not realize when they commit crimes that their right to vote will be taken away.

However, a young child doesn’t know that the eye of a stove is hot until they put their hand on it either, but that doesn’t keep them from getting burned and possibly scarred for life as a result of their action.

A person who drinks heavily for many years may stop drinking, go to Alcoholics Anonymous and eventually spend more years sober than drunk. They may pay their debt to society by staying &uot;dry,&uot; asking God, their friends and family members for forgiveness and receive it &045; but that does not remove the possibility of their getting sclerosis of the liver due to their prior years of drinking.

It is a possible consequence of their drinking.

Another side argues that restoring felons’ voting rights could be used as an incentive to reward those who have been in trouble multiple times.

Obviously their right to vote wasn’t important to them to in the first place, or they wouldn’t have done something illegal to jeopardize it. After all, these are people who risk their lives for the actions they took, so what’s a vote to them?

If they were willing to risk their jobs, or the possibility of ever getting a job, their character, their futures and their lives to commit a crime, what could their vote possibly mean to them?

Those who believe voting should be used as an incentive to dangle over a felon’s head to encourage them to straighten up, cheapen the very right to vote. They also insult the men and women who have fought and died to preserve that basic freedom.

Some argue that banning felons’ voting rights is immoral and it continues to punish the person long after their crime has been committed.

Interestingly, the crime they committed continues to punish the person they committed it against long after the crime has been committed, too.

After all, should we restore rights and give rewards to felons? Who is going to reward their victims? Who is going to restore their victims’ right to privacy, self-confidence and sense of security in their own homes? Who is going to restore their innocence and remove their fear of being attacked on the streets of their neighborhood while walking their dog at night? No one.

Besides, aren’t we, as a society, a little soft on crime already?

We should work more diligently to make additional punishments for criminals, not soften up on what we already have. And by no means should we use the sacred right to vote as an incentive for those who break the law because it is the ultimate privilege and right given to those who obey the law.

Voting always has been and always will be a sacred freedom for which men and women have died. The act should be viewed as a privilege. It should not be viewed as something to use as a reward for someone who ever chose to give it up in the first place.

Their criminal behavior should continue to cost them their vote, just as it has cost their victims a feeling of safety and security. That’s one of the many consequences and end results of committing a crime