65% of Americans say felons like the Boston Marathon bomber should not be allowed to vote while in prison
Should ex-felons be allowed to vote? Should prisoners? Last December, voters in Florida passed a Constitutional Amendment restoring the right to vote to non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. Florida now joins a majority of states that allow at least some former felons to vote, though a number of states do not automatically restore voting rights upon release. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders described the right to vote as “inherent to our democracy.” The American public, including Democrats and Republicans, agrees with him.
It matters little whether the respondents believe felons are permitted to vote in their state, or whether they do not believe that is the case.
But while a majority of both Republicans and Democrats say felons who have completed their sentences should be allowed to vote, the same respondents don’t think the right to vote should be given to people currently in prison. Two-thirds would give back the franchise to those who have completed their sentences, but only 36% would let a felon who is convicted of a non-violent crime and still currently in prison vote. At present, only Vermont and Maine allow prisoners to vote.
On both of these questions, more Democrats than Republicans approve. However, while the belief in restoring voting rights to those who have completed their sentences is a bipartisan one, only a majority of Democrats support voting rights for those currently serving prison sentences. And although most Democrats favor giving those now in prison on non-violent felony charges the right to participate in elections, they do not believe that especially violent criminals – like the Boston Marathon bomber – should be allowed to vote, a notion that runs counter to another statement by Senator Sanders.