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Should a person continue to be deprived of the right to vote after release from prison?

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The relationship between disenfranchisement because of conviction and the restoration of voting rights is a much-debated subject. In the United States, there is no established federal policy; rather, the laws vary by state. In some states, an ex-convict may resume voting immediately upon their release, but in others, completion of parole is required or there is a mandatory waiting period. Kentucky requires former prisoners to petition to have their vote restore, and still others do not allow former prisoners to vote. Furthermore, the laws also vary depending on the time of crime committed. In Alabama, for example, people convicted of specific types of felony cannot have their rights restored; these offenses include murder, rape, and sexual crimes against children.

The arguments for restoring the vote are based in the idea of constitutional rights. Those in favor of restoration argue that a sentence completed indicates that the ex-felon has paid their debt and is entitled to have all their rights restored. They point to the unfairness of singling out a right that is not connected to the crime committed. Furthermore, because of the disproportionate conviction and incarceration of minorities, especially African Americans, continuing to deny ex-felons the vote constitutes racial discrimination. Another argument in favor of vote restoration is that the ex-felons are often counted in a district’s population and therefore are citizens in every other regard.

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