Sen. Kamala Harris

Screen grab: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is questioned by Don Lemon at a CNN town hall – 4/22/19.

CNN held a series of town halls last night in New Hampshire with several of the Democratic candidates for president, and two question/answer segments have got people scratching their heads this morning.

The first segment featured Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and anchor Chris Cuomo, who was his town hall moderator. Sanders was asked a question on whether or not he really believed that convicted felons including those who commit violent crimes should be allowed to vote from prison:

During a CNN town hall on Monday night, Harvard student Anne Carlstein asked if his position would support “enfranchising people” like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who she noted is a “convicted terrorist and murderer,” as well as those “convicted of sexual assault,” whose votes could have a “direct impact on women’s rights.”

[…]

“If somebody commits a serious crime- sexual assault, murder, they’re gonna be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That’s what happens when you commit a serious crime,” Sanders elaborated.

“But, I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘That guy committed a terrible crime, not gonna let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not gonna let that person vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope. So, I believe that people who commit crimes, they pay the price. When they get out of jail, I believe they certainly should have the right the vote, but I do believe that even if they are in jail, they’re paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.”

Watch Sanders’s answer below:

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Only two states in the country currently allow felons to vote from prison: Vermont and Maine.

Sen. Kamala Harris’s (CA) response was a dodge and weave, even after anchor Don Lemon tried to get her to give a direct answer:

“I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship and it is something that people should not be stripped of needlessly, which is why I have been long an advocate of making sure that the formerly incarcerated are not denied a right to vote, which is the case in so many states in our country, in some states, permanently deprived of the right to vote,” Harris said.

“These are policies that go back to Jim Crow, these are policies that go back to the heart of policies that have been about disenfranchisement, policies that continue until today, and we need to take it seriously,” Harris continued.

Lemon pressed whether “people who are convicted, in prison, like the Boston Marathon bomber, on death row, people who are convicted of sexual assault” should be allowed to vote.

“I think we should have that conversation,” Harris responded.

It was one of the more awkward moments from her town hall. Watch below:

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave a much different answer, which the crowd liked:

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, eliciting cheers from the audience.

“Enfranchisement upon release is important, but part of the punishment…is you lose certain rights,” Buttigieg added. “You lose your freedom. And I don’t think during that time it makes sense to have that exception.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) was not asked this question during her town hall (which was before Bernie’s) but her answer would have been interesting to hear. Hopefully reporters following her campaign will ask her if she agrees with Sanders.

In April 2015, she told CBS This Morning she did not support the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. —