Santorum and Felon Voting

by Roger Clegg

Santorum’s stance on felon voting is extremely troubling. He is wrong to racialize this issue — to suggest that one’s stance on this issue should be affected by the racial makeup of the felons. He was also wrong to federalize this issue — to have voted for federal intervention in this area that is committed by the Constitution to the states — and wrong not just as a matter of policy, but wrong because the bill he supported exceeded Congress’s constitutional authority. And he is wrong on the merits — to say that the right to vote should be restored automatically to someone once he walks out of prison (and has no more probation or parole). The right to vote should be restored on a case-by-case basis, looking at the seriousness of the crime committed, how recently it was committed, and whether it was one of a series of crimes.

I explain why Congress lacks authority to require states to let felons vote (in the context of a different bill from the one Sen. Santorum voted before, but similar in that regard) in my testimony here.

BTW, I take no position on Sen. Santorum’s claim that Gov. Romney is hypocritical not to have urged Massachusetts to have tightened its even more liberal law, but Gov. Romney is correct that changing the law might have been difficult in Massachusetts — indeed, he might have understated the difficulty, since it would have required a constitutional amendment (and in fact the state constitution had just been tightened up from allowing felons in prison to vote).


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