There have been many arguments in recent years claiming that ex-convicts should have full voting rights restored. Below are ten of the most common reasons mentioned in these arguments.
1. It is commonly assumed that once a convicted criminal has served and completed their prison sentence and probationary period, they have completed their debt to society. Once that has been completed, disenfranchising them is a further punishment to which they had not been sentenced and to which there is no end date.
2. The demographics of ex-convict populations skew heavily towards minorities. By disenfranchising ex-convicts, a proper representation of the population is not permitted to vote. Consequently, many have compared this system to modern-day Jim Crow and voter suppression.
3. Criminal disenfranchisement may violate the Eighth Amendment by being considered to be a "cruel and unusual punishment."
4. There is usually no fair system of appeal to have individual voting rights reinstated. In some states, it is up to an arbitrary decision made by a committee that does not need to justify their decisions.
5. Criminal disenfranchisement violates the core American belief that there should be "no taxation without representation." Ex-convicts still pay taxes, after all.
6. It may violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."
7. In some states, these laws may also violate the Twenty-fourth Amendment. Washington State, for instance, denies voting rights to anyone who has not paid their LFOs (Legal Financial Obligations). The Twenty-fourth Amendment states that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote... shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax." If LFOs are viewed as a tax, then these disenfranchisement laws are unconstitutional.
8. Disenfranchisement laws conflict with the notion that prisons serve to rehabilitate convicts. If people are trusted to be able to re-enter society, then denying them the right to vote is denying that trust.
9. It does not necessarily reflect the overall will of the people. There is a growing consensus that once they have served their time, convicts should have their voting rights restored. We saw this take place with the recent ballot measure in Florida which restored voting rights to ex-convicts.
10. If voting is seen as a right, rather than a privilege, then ex-convicts should be able to vote. There are laws, such as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, that explicitly call voting a right. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has several times made rulings that refer to voting as an integral right of citizenship (ex. Reynolds v. Sims).
If all these reasons are not enough to make an argument that voting should not be denied to ex-convicts, I will leave you with the words of President Lyndon Johnson, who said that "It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote... it is really all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome."