Posted by 03 March 2021
The progressive caucus in the Democratic Party has long pushed to expand voting rights to felons and individuals in jail. This week, however, they could not even garner a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support that in the House of Representatives.
While considering HR 1, a bill that contains a variety of provisions related to federal election law, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) introduced an amendment that would mandate that states allow felons and otherwise eligible voters in jail to vote. She said that those who are sent to prison are still people and should retain their rights. Supporters argue that denying the incarcerated their right to vote disproportionately affects minorities and that it is a social justice issue to allow them to vote.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly disagreed, however. The amendment failed by a vote of 97-328. No Republican voted in favor of it, but 119 Democrats also opposed the amendment.
Opponents argued that the federal government should not be telling states that they must allow felons or the incarcerated to vote. They also argued that stripping voting rights from those in jail was part of a proper punishment for their crimes.
There have been efforts in states to restore voting rights to felons, although maintaining voting rights for the incarcerated is more controversial. Rep. Bush said that while this amendment may have failed, it would help spark a national conversation on this issue.
Do you think that people in jail should be able to vote?