Legal Question: Why disenfranchise felons who've already served time?

I’m trying to write this query in such a matter that it does not involve DEBATES into why post-incarcerate disenfranchisement should or should not occur – but rather the rationale(s) behind such notions.

I understand that prison is about punishing the guilty, safeguarding the public, the denial of freedoms, choices, basic human urges, opportunities and legislative rights. What I don’t get is why this should continue to affect those same people AFTER time is served. Does it depend on the type of felony committed? Is recidivism
a factor? Are race, socioeconomic factors? Are there loopholes in this law so that, say, a white collar criminal who’s served time can make some later repeal and continue to vote?

Here in the state of South Carolina, there is supposedly a bill in the Senate (already passed in the House, I’m told) that would continue to prevent felons from voting for an additional 15 years after they’ve served their time AND completed any supervisory requirements. Many of the felons are young black males (hence, my bias and concern) serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

So again, why – after someone has already BEEN punished, finished probation and have been returned to society, can’t they vote?

Is this typical? How does SC rank against other states in the union in this manner? Florida, for example? California? Ohio? New York?

Legal experts, ACLU members and ex-felons – love to hear from you.

A few facts to start you off.

Nationwide about 4.2 million people are inelligable to vote. 7% of blacks (and 13% of black men) compared to about 2% of the general population are inneligable to vote.

This is an issue determined by the states and allowed under the constitution. At one end of the spectrum 3 states Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine allow those in prison to vote. (Mass may have become more restrictive recently) About half states are in the middle allowing voting after release and probation or parole is completed. Some have a set time period before a released felon may register. Others have a lifetime ban which may be waived upon application though standards vary.

Florida and Alabama are the worst with about 1 out of 3 black men being disenfranchised.

I can’t answer the why very well given my lack of sympathy for what seems to be a contrived argument. Failure to play by the rules seems to forfeit your right to have anything to say about them in future. I think they stem from tiered societies where citizenship was more of a privilege then a fact of life.

Here’s an interactive that will give you the scoop on which states do this.

In answer to “why?” my cynical self suggests that lawmakers have discovered that the classification of “felons” in general does not generate sympathy in the general public, that being considered ‘tough on crime’ will help in reelection bids. I doubt that there was consideration about such measures past ‘they’ve given up their rights as citizens’, so I doubt that they figure in the cost of such a law, and/or does it really have any preventative value (if the idea of doing 3 - 5 years in prison isn’t sufficient deterrant, why suppose to loose the right to vote would?)

Perhaps people in the states that do this can chime in with the rationale (and include, please, if any discussion as to the purge the voters registration roles, and the costs?)

Given the stated cause of thr Revolutionary War, do these felons escape tax free. After all ‘No Taxation without Representation’ :wink:

Basically, it’s because legislatures haven’t got around to extending them the right – the denial of certain civil rights (including the ballot) to felons goes back quite a ways, as I touch upon in my old Staff Report on the subject.

The two most common rights that felons lose are: 1) the right to keep and bear arms; and 2) the right to vote. In all States the right to keep and bear arms (even to have ammunition) is permanently lost, unless the felon gets an official pardon from the president or state governor. The loss of the right to vote varies from State to State.

The Federal government also includes a loss of the right to hold public office. On the State and Local level there are many examples of convicted felons who hold Local and State offices…

The fact that felons are disenfranchised after serving time reveals the thinking of our society that incarceration is merely punishment, not rehabilitation.