Should prisoners be allowed to vote?
Personally, in general, I can see the case for Yes.
Although, I’d never lose sleep if murder convictions made it a no-go.
And there’s something else: What if a prison were located in a lightly populated county? What if the prisoners therefore became a substantial constituency?
Such questions are being asked in Virginia, where Democratic lawmakers — who recently secured legislative control — are trying to alter the state constitution so that inmates and the mentally handicapped can pull the lever just like everyone else.
‘Til now, the national debate’s concerned felons voting once they’re released. But Virginians may soon rock the vote from behind bars.
The locked-up can already vote in Vermont and Maine, but VA’s proposal — courtesy of Mamie E. Locke and Kaye Kory — could allow them to vote as residents of the prison’s jurisdiction.
And there ain’t a lotta people living in them there parts.
Here are some stats, as reported by The Daily Caller:
Lunenberg Correctional Center houses up to 1,185 inmates in Lunenburg County, which has 12,369 residents and voted for Donald Trump in 2016 with a margin of 980 votes. The county is represented by a mix of Democrats and Republicans in downballot offices.
Indian Creek Correctional Center houses 1,002 inmates in Chesapeake, which has a population of 243,000 and narrowly voted for Trump with a margin of 1,444 votes.
Lawrenceville Correctional Center houses up to 1,555 prisoners in Brunswick County, which has 16,435 residents. The county is represented by a mix of Republicans and Democrats. It voted for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 by a margin of 1,428, with 58.5% of the vote. If all prisoners voted in the Democratic primary, they could make up one-third of the electorate that chooses the candidates who would go on to win the general election.
River North Correctional Center houses up to 1,024 prisoners in Grayson County, which has a population of 15,708. It is represented by Republicans in the U.S. House, the state house, and the state senate. It voted for Trump at 77%, a margin of 4,186 votes. Clinton received 1,407 votes. That means prisoners, if they all voted for Democrats, could nearly double the Democratic base in the county.
Republican Clara Belle Wheeler of the Virginia Board of Elections thinks it’s hogwash:
“It’s completely unreasonable to think it’s fair or equitable that a prison population that contributes nothing to the betterment of the locality would be allowed to vote on local issues, such as commonwealth attorneys.”
TDW also pointed out that — guess what — an American Academy of Political and Social Science found…get this: In some states, felons are six times more likely to register as Democrats.
Not to Clara:
“They know that. That’s exactly why that bill’s there.”
Here’s the language of Senate Joint Resolution 8:
“The only qualifications of voters shall be as follows: Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States, shall be eighteen years of age, shall fulfill the residence requirements set forth in this section, and shall be registered to vote pursuant to this article … The residence requirements shall be that each voter shall be a resident of the Commonwealth and of the precinct where he votes.”
That’s the amendment, and it would slam the cell door shut on the following previous language:
“No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority. As prescribed by law, no person adjudicated to be mentally incompetent shall be qualified to vote until his competency has been reestablished.”
Virginia Dems are really shootin’ for the moon on this one.
But they fell short of a less ambitious launch in 2016, when Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe tried to give about 200,000 convicted felons the right to vote after they got out of the Joint.
He did the best he could — courts permitted him to grant individual exceptions.
So the guy must’ve had an ACME mail order catalog: He acquired a nifty mechanical pen to rapidly sign tens of thousands of letters. The result: potentially 60,000 felons voting — enough to swing the election for Terry’s pal Hillary.
Back to the issue of blooming where you’re planted:
[Clara] said the state previously made a change to allow college students to vote from either the jurisdiction where their college is or where they’re from, allowing Democrats from Northern Virginia to vote for Democratic policies in more conservative areas with colleges.
So there ya go: Redistricting’s part of the political game; why not employ it on your Uncle Jailbird Joey?
So what are your thoughts?
Aside from the jurisdictional component, should those in the Clink be allowed to elect Hillar — I mean, anyone?
One might say those ensconced in cement live below the law; but the written word applies to prison. And those who are released will be subject to legislation passed by lawmakers elected while they were in the hoosegow.
I look forward to a thorough hashing of this issue in the Comments section.
See 3 more pieces from me:
Find all my RedState work here.
Thank you for reading! Please sound off in the Comments section below.