Civil rights leader Benjamin Todd Jealous once said, “The right to vote is the right upon which all of our rights are leveraged – and without which none can be protected.” Voting is an important part of being a citizen of the U.S. All citizens of legal age, including convicted felons, should be able to maintain their right to vote. It is the reason for our democratic government and our attempts to give every citizen a voice in our country’s government and laws. The right to vote is mentioned more than any other right in the constitution and everyone deserves a second chance.
The amendments to the constitution mention citizens’ right to vote more often than any other right. Though felons have been convicted of a crime, they are still citizens of the U.S. When their voting right is taken away they are being suppressed, much like the people who had to fight for their right to vote before. The first mention of the the right to vote within the amendments is in the Fourteenth Amendment; the Fifteenth gave the right to vote to all male U.S. citizens. The Fifteenth Amendment states the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Nineteenth Amendment changed the Constitution to give the right to vote to women: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. The Twenty-Fourth Amendment gave citizens the right to vote, even with unpaid poll taxes. Finally, the fifth mention of the right to vote in the Constitutional Amendments is in the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which changed the legal voting age from 21, as the Fourteenth Amendment, established to 18 years of age.
The constitution is what promises all U.S. citizens our basic rights and freedoms. The constitution is what ensures our freedom of speech and religion, making sure the citizens have some power over the government.
Our government is democratic, which means every eligible citizen gets one vote. This gives citizens some say on who goes into government positions. When people lose their right to vote, we are unable to accurately decide who the majority of citizens want to be in the positions of power; whether it is president of the U.S. or a governor. Being able to vote gives citizens a chance to say who they believe will be the best leader will affect the future of everyone in America. As a matter of fact people have fought for their right to vote. One such time would be the suffrage movement, when women fought for their right to vote. Before that there were many protests to get people of color the right to vote. Though voting is a right and a choice that not everyone chooses to use, when someone’s right to vote is taken away, their voice in government is taken away. After paying for their crimes with the time they have been in prison, felons don’t always get their right back, and that means their voices are being silenced in government.
Today there are several obstacles that may prevent people from being able to vote. Voting rates are already lower than they should be. According to fairvote only about 60 percent of eligible voters are using their right during presidential elections, and even less, around 40 percent are using their vote during midterm elections. Voter I.D. laws are making it more of a challenge for many citizens to vote. The laws are said to be in place to prevent voter impersonation fraud, but obtaining an I.D. required for voting can be both time consuming and expensive for some people, especially those from low income households. Another obstacle for many is if someone has ever been convicted of a felon, they may lose their right to vote as well.
Many people believe that anyone convicted of any crime shouldn’t be able to vote because the Fourteenth Amendment states “participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State,” making it a state decision. Others say it is because criminals are untrustworthy and have made wrong decisions, so they can’t make good judgement in life. According to procon.org, 10 states may permanently take away their right to vote, and only two states that allow people to vote by an absentee ballot while in prison. The rest of the states range from allowing convicted felons to vote right after being released from prison to allowing them to vote only after their probation is finished. Some have to apply for the ability to vote, and there may be a minimum waiting period for it.
There are several reasons that ex-felons should be able to vote though. Just a couple are that voting is a basic right from the constitution that they may be denied, they should get a second chance, and voting can be a big part of being a part of society.
Every U.S. citizen of legal age should be able to keep their right to vote. Not only does the constitution talk about the right to vote 5 times, but our government is democratic for a reason. No one wants their voice taken away from them.