Why Felons Should Not Lose The Right To Vote
Felons May Be Felons, but They're Citizens, Too.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Tennessee is one of a number of states that remove a felon’s right to vote until after the completion of their sentence (NCSL), and, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State website, a felon can only regain the right to vote after “the restoration of voting rights form [is] used to restore an individual’s voting rights for a felony conviction on or after May 18, 1981” (Tennessee Secretary of State). In other words, if a person is convicted of a felony, regardless of what they did or how harmless the offense is, they will lose their right to vote, and it can be exceptionally hard to get it back.
I believe that it is unconstitutional to remove a felon’s right to vote, especially if they are an American citizen. The civil rights amendments that have been added to the Constitution over the years have worked toward the common goal of granting voting rights to all United States citizens over the age of 18. However, because felons are still not able to vote in Tennessee without filling out a form, we haven’t reached that goal. As American citizens, we are granted by the Constitution and its amendments the right to vote in elections. That right should not be revoked for any reason, and the removal of this right implies that a person can lose their citizenship because they are a convicted felon, and this simply does not agree with what the Constitution says. Does an American citizen, whether they are an immigrant or naturalized, lose their status as a citizen because of their criminal history? Of course not, so why are they treated like it when their rights that are supposedly granted to all citizens are removed?
Additionally, the restoration of voting rights form states that “a person is not eligible to apply for a voter registration card and have their voting rights restored unless the person is current in all child support obligations” (Tennessee Certificate of Restoration of Voting Rights). While everyone who has child support obligations should without a doubt be held accountable for them, this notice makes it much harder for felons to regain a right that should not have been taken away in the first place. It can be hard for even the most responsible of citizens to stay on top of child support payments, and having the status of a felon only makes it that much harder. The way to hold people accountable for their child support responsibilities is not by taking away their rights. People should not be punished by having their Constitutional rights stripped away from them, regardless of what they have or haven't done.
Allowing convicted felons to keep their right to vote does not condone or excuse their actions by any means, especially since they would still be serving prison time for their crimes. All it does is acknowledge that people should not be punished for their crimes by losing their Constitutional rights, and, by allowing felons to retain their right to vote, we are encompassing what it means to be an American. Our Founding Fathers made voting such an important part of the Constitution because they were not able to vote under Britain’s rule. They made it an essential part of American culture and history, so, if not every citizen has the right to vote, how can we say that we are representative of America and that we are truly the greatest country in the world?
Hargett, T. (n.d.). Certificate of Restoration of Voting Rights [PDF]. Nashville, TN.
Potyondy, P. (2020, October 1). Felon Voting Rights. Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/felon-voting-rights.aspx
Welcome to the Tennessee Secretary of State's Website. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://sos.tn.gov/