Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) on Thursday reiterated his controversial view that jailed Americans ― regardless of the crime they’ve committed ― should be able to vote in elections.
“I think that every American citizen, because of their citizenship, should have the right to vote, even if they are in jail,” Sanders said at a campaign rally in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I think the right to vote ― the right to vote is what being an American citizen is about,” Sanders said. “And if you commit to a terrible crime, you are going to pay the price. But that does not mean that your right to participate in our democracy is taken away from you.”
Noting the backlash he’s experienced since his view was spotlighted in recent days, Sanders said, “I was roundly criticized for this, but you know what, once you begin taking away somebody’s right to vote, it’s a slippery slope. … “Remember 100 years ago, women in America didn’t have the right to vote. Remember 70 years ago, our African American brothers and sisters had to put their lives on the line to get the right to vote.”
Sanders support for allowing felons to vote ― which in the U.S. is the policy only in his home state and Vermont ― came during a town hall in Muscatine, Iowa, on April 6. It then was spotlighted at a similar CNN session Monday night, when he said his stance covered even “terrible people” like the Bostom Marathon bomber.
In Iowa, he had said, “You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That’s bad. But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”
Those quickly criticizing Sanders’ position included Meghan McCain, one of the co-hosts of TV’s “The View” talk show.
“It is not hard to say people who commit acts of terror in this country should not only be punished but God forbid they should have any rights that any of us had,” McCain said.
As Sanders pointed out on Twitter, giving incarcerated criminals voting rights is not a new concept. More than 30 other countries allow prisoners to vote in elections.