It’s an election year, so first the New York Times and now the Washington Post have done the bidding of the liberal “Sentencing Project” and published an editorial demanding that felons be allowed to vote.
In one fundamental respect the Post’s editorial is even weaker than the Times’s, since it asks but then doesn’t even try to answer why felons are not allowed to vote — a prohibition with roots in ancient Greece and ancient Rome, that came from England to the American colonies, and has been with us since the Founding. Gee, you might think there would be some rationale for such a longstanding policy and, sure enough, there is: The fundamental reason we do not let felons vote is that we have certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility, trustworthiness, and loyalty to our laws that must be met before someone can participate in the sacred enterprise of self-government. So we don’t let children vote or the mentally incompetent or noncitizens — or those who have committed serious crimes against other people.
The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully and case by case, to ensure that the person has really turned over a new leaf. It’s more likely than not that a released felon will be returning to prison, so it makes no sense to restore the right to vote automatically, as the Post advocates.
To put it another way: If you are not willing to follow the law, you cannot demand the right to make the law, which is of course what you do (directly or indirectly) when you vote.