If you’re a citizen and at least 18, you can vote in elections, right? Well, no. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, it’s possible that you could have that right taken away. It’s called felony disenfranchisement.
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What is felony disenfranchisement?
When a state takes away your ability to vote because you’ve been convicted of a crime, it’s called felony disenfranchisement. The word felony is in there because it usually applies to the felony class of crimes, which are more serious crimes that put people in prison for at least a year. So, we’re talking violent crimes like rape and murder. But some states also include some nonviolent crimes like bribery or lying under oath or trafficking drugs. Most states automatically restore the right to vote after people finish serving their sentences. But in some states, for certain crimes, you can permanently lose your right to vote.
What is the argument FOR felony disenfranchisement?
The argument you’ll probably hear boils down to something like, “If you can’t follow the laws in your own life, why should you be trusted to help make laws for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote?” Remember, people convicted of felonies often lose other rights, like serving on a jury, owning a gun, getting welfare payments, and receiving financial aid for college. Why should voting be any different?