Felony disenfranchisement is an issue that has been the subject of several discussions within the legal system of the United States. Felony disenfranchisement has been used as a way of prohibiting ex-felon convicts from participating in any voting process both at the federal and state levels (Alexander, 2010). It is important to note that the principle of felony disenfranchisement conflicts with that of universal suffrage. The conflict has raised an important debate on whether the convicts’ right to vote, as provided for in the principle of universal suffrage, should be restored automatically at the expiry of their sentences (Kemp, 2002). This paper takes a stand that ex-felon convicts should not be guaranteed the right to vote. Sacrificing one’s political rights after committing a felony can be backdated to the early traditions of Rome and Greek. The conviction of disenfranchisement was meted out on individuals, convicted of serious crimes; it was considered as civil death of a convict. The Great Britain also used the punishment of ex-felony disenfranchisement in the periods between 17th and 18th centuries.
Ex-felon convicts should not be guaranteed the right to vote
Preventing ex-convict from voting should be considered as a further punishment for offenses committed. This strategy is a way of showing individuals the disadvantages brought about by engaging in criminal activities that lead to arrest and incarceration. The significance of this is that it reinforces the prison sentences that the ex-felon convicts might have already served. When the public interacts with this group of ex-felon convicts, whose rights to vote have been denied, they are likely not to engage in committing crimes. Most importantly, even though felony disenfranchisement contradicts the principles of universal suffrage, it is recognized under the fourteenth amendment of the constitution of the United States (Baldino, et al., 2010).
Felony disenfranchisement varies from one state to the other. In some states, felons are allowed to participate in any voting process, especially political voting, while other states have laws permanently barring ex-felon convicts from participating in voting processes (Bond & Smith, 2011).
One who commits crimes, engages in criminal activities or seems to abet crime in his or her own homeland is naturally guilty of betraying his or her own country. This implies that he or she cannot be trusted for the benefits of all other loyal and patriotic citizens. In light of this, it is right to exclude such offenders from all civic processes, both at federal and state levels. In this case, felony disenfranchisement is the most appropriate approach to deal with the ex-felon convicts. This idea is supported by Jean Jacques Rousseau, a contract theorist (Fennell, 2006).
One who commits felony in his homeland is not fit to be considered part of the citizenship of the United States; this is because such a person has willingly disregarded his or her civic duty to uphold the virtues and the provisions of the laws of the country. Therefore, such an individual should not be allowed to participate in a process, where good citizens are involved. In fact, punishment for crimes committed should include total loss of citizenship and voting rights, particularly, when crimes committed disgrace the country or breach honor, bestowed on the country.
Voting should be a democratic and transparent process of electing people of integrity into office. As such, the election process should involve only moral citizens and not those whose character have no morality (Insua, 2010). For this reason, the ex-felon convicts should not be allowed to participate at the ballot box. Felons can be considered as those who have failed in making the right judgement and cannot be trusted in a voting process, which requires proper judgments of the participating citizens.
Allowing ex-felon convicts to vote is in great contravention of the reasons for voting. It is noteworthy to recollect that voting involves a process of electing law makers. Consequently, it is not sensible to allow ex-felon convicts to participate in electing individuals who make the very laws they break by committing crimes. In a nutshell, ex-felon convicts do not have the moral right to participate in electing law makers.
Many citizens of the United States want to retain their voting rights, as provided for under the universal suffrage, so as to have political voice in the governance of the United States in general and their respective states in specific. This fact is important in combating crime or creating a deterrent to commission of felony. Disenfranchising ex-felon convicts on this basis serves as a deterrent to crime in the sense that many citizens, who value their voting rights, would safeguard their voting rights, rather than loose it permanently by committing avoidable crimes.
Moreover, incarceration has been described as one way of crime deterrent. However, this notion has not worked in some situations. There are cases, where ex-convicts have re-engaged in criminal activities after release or completing prison terms. This implies that incarceration as crime deterrent strategy is not effective; it only works as long as the convicts are held within the confines of prison cells, however, as soon as they are released, they are likely to continue committing crimes. In order to deter others from committing crimes and also preventing the ex-felon convicts from going back to criminal activities, it is crucial that some rights should be permanently or partially denied. Therefore, disenfranchisement is one of the best options available to ensure this. In fact, this should be the next step of punishment after serving prison sentences. The impact of ex-felon disenfranchisement is reduced crime amongst the citizens of the United States. Many individuals, who fear losing their voting rights, would not consider engaging in criminal activities.
Besides, incarcerated prisoners are merely temporarily separated from other citizens. This only places some limited punishment on them. In fact, those who have limited sentences can be hoping to get out of prisons soon and continue enjoying their rights. As soon as they are released from prison, the purpose of their incarceration ends. This may not make them regret their criminal actions. So, the only way to make them regret their criminal actions is to deny them certain rights through models such as disenfranchising.
Ex-felon disenfranchisement has its roots in the traditions of ancient Rome and Greek (Hull, 2006). The United States’ Supreme Court recognizes the enforcement of this form of punishment even though some states do not practice it. Although the issue has elicited much debate both from within and outside the United States, it is still appropriate not to guarantee ex-felon convict voting rights. This is because of a number of reasons: first, the ex-felon convicts cannot be trusted to make rational judgement in accordance with the very law they have broken. Second, mere incarceration does not act as a deterrent to crime. In fact, research indicates that some felon convicts are repeat offenders. Therefore, denying the ex-felon convicts the right to vote acts as one of the effective crime deterrent strategies.
Ex-felon convicts are considered to be betrayers of their homeland. By engaging in felony, they have proven that they are not willing to uphold the ideals of their homeland. As such, they are not supposed to be granted the right to belong with the upright citizens; they should not be allowed to exercise their rights in a political process the same way upright citizens do. In conclusion, ex-felon convicts should not be guaranteed the right to vote.