Discuss how you understand the question below: Should convicted felons have the right to vote?

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I must admit that I don't understand the question as stated.

Should convicted felons have the right to vote?

Does this mean:

Should convicted felons retain the right to vote if they are serving time in prison?

Should convicted felons lose the right to vote for the rest of their lives?

Should convicted felons lose the right to vote if they are not sent to prison but only put on probation, or if they only have to pay fines?

Should convicted felons lose the right to vote while in prison but regain it if they are released on parole?

Should all convicted felons be treated the same? Or should a serial killer, for example, have the same rights as a businessman serving a year for embezzlement in a "country-club" prison?

It seems to me that a convicted felon who is serving time behind bars naturally loses a lot of freedom, so taking away his right to vote while incarcerated doesn't seem like a serious punishment. Giving him that privilege while in prison is giving him a certain amount of power, and a significant number of felons could conspire to use their joint power for antisocial purposes, such as voting against a certain judge or district attorney.

However, after a felon has served his time he should be considered rehabilitated and have all his civil rights restored. Otherwise, it seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

It's hard to answer the question as it is worded. But the question asks you how you understand it, not what your answer would be. If I were asked how I understand the question I would say that my first impression is that it is asking if a man serving time behind bars for a felony should be able to vote while he is in prison. My immediate instinct would be to say no. He's behind bars because he's dangerous and he's locked up with a lot of other dangerous men. He should have certain protections, but he shouldn't have any power, as such, until he gets out. 

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

To answer the question accurately and write a good essay on the topic, you should first analyze the question and determine exactly what it wants you to do. Once you have done this, you should decide from which point of view you are going to approach the topic. Are you going to be subjective and therefore write an argumentative piece? Or are you going to be objective and write either a discursive or reflective essay? In all instances you need information to back up your approach. Some research on the topic would greatly enhance your attempt.

Analysis: "Felon" refers to anyone who has committed a criminal act.

"convicted" refers to any person who has been found guilty of a crime by either a jury, magistrate or judge in a court of law. Once such a person has been found guilty, he or she is sentenced to an appropriate punishment.

"The right to vote", also known as "suffrage" is a right citizens in democracies have to participate in an election and choose leaders. The right is normally entrenched and citizens gain this right on achieving a certain age and possessing the mental capacity to understand their vote. This differs from country to country.

Now that the question has been analyzed, one needs to present a point of view in any of the formats suggested in the first paragraph. A good start would be to present a strong thesis statement in the first paragraph of your discussion - depending of course, on your point of view.

If you believe that felons are just as much citizens of a country as everyone else and are therefore equal and should be allowed the same rights as every other citizen, you would develop your discussion around this view. Yes, they should be allowed to vote. Your approach may be that they are just as much influenced by the laws of a country as every other citizen and should therefore be allowed to express their choice.

You may, however, believe that since these felons have committed crimes, they have denied themselves the right to vote. In this sense then, the "right" is more of a privilege. Rights are entrenched and guaranteed, so they cannot be removed or denied.

You could make a good argument about the fact that felons have not respected the rights of others, so why should theirs be (respected)? Remember, you need to establish the basis for your approach in the thesis statement and then justify your perspective.

I hope that the little I have contributed helpful and will set you on the road to producing an excellent discussion.

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