Why Felons Can’t Vote
THE SOURCE: “Voting and Vice: Criminal Disenfranchisement and the Reconstruction Amendments” by Richard M. Re and Christopher M. Re, in The Yale Law Journal, May 2012.
One of the ironies of history is that an argument that got black men the vote is now an instrument for taking it away. Americans barred from voting because of their criminal record now total more than five million, a number that includes an estimated 13 percent of African-American men, according to the Sentencing Project.
Advocates looking to reduce or eradicate criminal disenfranchisement often home in on an obscure section of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), one of the three civil rights amendments ratified during Reconstruction. They claim that incorrect or overly broad interpretations of the provision have unjustly denied voting rights to many Americans. Richard M. Re and Christopher M. Re, recent graduates of Yale Law School and Stanford Law School, respectively, argue that they’re wrong. The Fourteenth Amendment was explicitly intended to authorize criminal disenfranchisement, albeit only for serious crimes.
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