National

Should Convicted Felons Keep Their Right to Vote?

One of the topics discussed among Democrats who are running for president is whether people should be allowed to vote while they are incarcerated.

The man they are trying to replace has dismissed the issue.

“Let terrorists that are in prison vote? I don’t think so,” Trump said during a speech to the NRA. “Can you believe it? But this is where some of these people are coming from.”

Currently, there are two states who allow felons to vote. They are two of the most liberal states in the nation — Vermont and Maine.

MSNBC went into a Maine prison where they spoke to convicted murderer Foster Bates.

“Just because a person’s incarcerated, that doesn’t make him less of a citizen,” Bates told NBC News. “That doesn’t make him less of a human being. People are going to make mistakes in their lives.”

Bates who was convicted of murder in 2002 is the president of a special chapter of the NAACP formed inside the prison. Even though he is serving a life sentence he has voted in every election as he hopes to get out one day.

“You want to have a say on the people making decisions about your life, regardless of where you are,” he said. “Because the people on the outside are going to make decisions for things when you get ready to go home, too.”

Jim Gagnon who lost his son when he was murdered sees it differently. “Once they’re released, they want to vote then? Fine,” Gagnon said. “But while they’re in there serving, they should not be allowed to vote. They lost that right the minute they committed murder and (were) convicted of a murder.”

His wife also argues, “My son didn’t get a chance to vote. Why would you allow someone that has committed murder or manslaughter — why would you allow him to vote when my son couldn’t vote?”

Bates understands why the Gagnons feel the way they do. “It’s not much you can say to the family as to why this person should vote,” Bates said. “But the answer that I would give is that you have to at some point in time say: If that person comes back to society, you want to have a changed person, not the person who committed the heinous crime.”

Bates spends most of his time helping fellow inmates to register and vote.

“Because we have to have our voices heard,” Bates said. “Because we are just as much a part of this country as … who’s outside these walls. Because we’re incarcerated doesn’t mean that we should lose our right to vote because when I leave this facility, I’m a citizen still.”

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