The voting rights of inmates and former inmates have become an issue among Democratic presidential candidates.
The candidates are pretty much in agreement on allowing a person convicted of a crime to restore his or her voting privileges once a sentence has been completed.
That is not the case in 13 states, where convicted felons face a complete loss of voting rights indefinitely. The states include Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.
But not South Carolina. Contrary to what many in the state believe – including a lot of those having completed prison sentences – South Carolina is among 21 states allowing former felons to restore their voting rights after serving their entire sentence, including parole and/or probation.
By law the S.C. Department of Corrections is not required to inform ex-prisoners that they can again become registered voters. But the department has committed itself to doing a better job in making that information known.
Returning to the voting rolls can be an important component for a person in re-entering society amid so many other complications, including finding work and finding a place to live. South Carolina can be proud to be among states allowing those who have paid their debt to society to resume being a voting citizen.
But there is a much more controversial proposal in the Democratic debate over reform in the justice system. Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is standing behind his position that people should be allowed to vote when they are serving sentences. He says taking away one group’s voting rights makes it more likely the same will be done for other groups. He says the person convicted of the most heinous crime – the example was the Boston bomber – should continue to be allowed to vote.
Sanders is not getting much support in any quarters for his position – and he won’t find any here.
A person loses the right to freedoms when serving a sentence for violating the laws of the land. One of those is and should be voting. He or she should not be part of the process of deciding on leaders, from the local to national levels.