It’s time to let US prisoners vote. Democrats should take a stand

A truck leaves a polling place in Warren, Michigan

When Republicans get control of government, they typically push through electoral reforms that make it easier for them to remain in power. They pass voter identification laws, limit early voting and reduce the number of polling places. In all cases, these moves are meant to reshape an area’s voting population so that it is more likely to deliver Republican election victories.

You might think Democrats do the same kinds of things, but strangely they don’t. Democratic election reform politics tends to focus either on mostly failed defensive campaigns against Republican encroachments or harsh rhetoric against the corrupting influence of money in politics. These Democratic efforts are fine, but also woefully insufficient. To really maximize their potential for success, Democrats need to take affirmative steps to expand the vote to as many favorable constituencies as they can.

One way Democrats could do this is by adopting the principled position that no adult citizen should ever be disenfranchised, not even those who have committed crimes and are currently incarcerated. Rather than fighting a somewhat arbitrary battle over when exactly ex-offenders should have their voting rights restored, the Democratic position should be that those voting rights should never go away in the first place.

On first glance, this might seem like a radical proposal, but it is in fact the norm across most of Europe. In a report released by People’s Policy Project on Tuesday, Emmett Sanders explains that “26 European nations at least partially protect their incarcerated citizens’ right to vote, while 18 countries grant prisoners the vote regardless of the offense”….

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