“We should be for letting people have the right to vote back, and I think the face of the Republican Party needs to be not about suppressing the vote, but about enhancing the vote.” - Senator Rand Paul
There are only two states in America that allow inmates to maintain the ability to vote while incarcerated: Vermont and Maine. Fifteen others provide the automatic restoration of voting rights following the offender’s release. Twenty-one states don’t even restore voting rights until after parole or probation has been served, and a total of thirteen states neglect the automatic restoration of voting rights until further action is taken by the ex-offender following his or her sentence and parole. This means that, because of these rules, 6 million Americans each year aren’t allowed to vote on issues that directly affect them. The majority of inmates are nonviolent offenders and, still, their rights are still stripped away. Denying people the right to vote completely violates our constitution and disregards the fundamental principles of America. Denying this right dehumanizes ex-offenders and makes them feel even further away from a society in which they are attempting be active members. This negatively affects the reentry process; when reentry is difficult, the risk of recidivism increases. These offenders have served their time—their punishment should not continue past the end of their sentence. In order to move on with their lives, ex-offenders need to have access to the everyday rights granted to Americans.
Not only is the restoration of voting rights beneficial to these ex-offenders on an individual level, it is also beneficial to the nation as a whole. America was founded on a democratic system and that must include all persons. Democracy needs different perspectives to thrive. When voting for politicians who will ultimately make laws concerning our justice system, we must include the perspectives of those who have actually participated in that system. By denying people these rights, America is neglecting to maintain one of its core principles of democracy. Excluding incarcerated individuals excludes a vast number of people with a broad range of valuable perspectives. America would benefit from the restoration of voting rights amongst ex-offenders, as well as the individuals themselves.