The June 17 editorial "Let Ex-Felons Vote" said state laws barring felons from voting "are a vestige of a time when states sought to discourage blacks from voting." But the Sentencing Project, which opposes such bans and which the editorial cited as an authority, concedes, "Disenfranchisement in the U.S. is a heritage from ancient Greek and Roman traditions carried into Europe."

Laws limiting felon voting were common before the Civil War and are common outside the South; indeed, 48 of the 50 states disenfranchise felons to one degree or another, most even after they have left prison. The 14th Amendment acknowledges that the states may legitimately pass such laws, and the Supreme Court has agreed. While a few Southern states enacted laws with racial animus between 1890 and 1910, they have been struck down or otherwise are no longer on the books.

Just because a criminal serves his time in prison -- "pays his or her debt to society" -- does not mean that society has to ignore the fact that the individual has seriously breached the social contract. Federal law prohibits felons from possessing firearms, for instance, and they are not allowed to serve on federal juries.

People who are not willing to follow the law should not be allowed to make the law for others, which is what voting is. The right to vote can be earned back by those who committed a less serious felony -- though all felonies are serious, by definition -- and thereafter keep a clean record, but that determination should be made case by case.


General Counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity



If The Post is correct in arguing that people convicted of minor felonies -- e.g., "writing a bad check" -- should be allowed to exercise their right to vote, then it should also hold true that such individuals be allowed to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

Convicted felons are not allowed to do so by federal law. Why should someone who was convicted of a minor felony and has "paid his or her debt to society" be denied the ability to possess a firearm for protection? Someone whose most notorious act was the writing of a check with insufficient funds is certainly not a danger.