EDITORIAL: Obama Urges Criminal Justice Reform; Would Allow Felons to Vote

Recent efforts by President Barack Obama to enact criminal justice reform have included calls to allow felons to regain the right to vote. At first glance, the idea doesn’t appear to have a chance of passing in bill form. A more in-depth thought process, however, leaves little choice but to agree with the idea.

President Barack Obama, speaking to the NAACP national convention in Philadelphia, said on Tuesday that for those that have served their time and reentered society, they should have the right to vote. Currently, about 5.9 million people in the United States are denied the right to vote, due to felony convictions. While there are certain actions that should by all means strip a person’s right to participate in the democratic process of our nation, there are too many others that shouldn’t carry that consequence.

In the state of Illinois, there are over 175 offenses (offense and subsequent violation of such) that could be charged as a felony. Some of those offenses – for example, but not wholly inclusive, murder, rape, sex crimes against children, etc – are in no way excusable. Other offenses, such as certain non-violent drug crimes, call into question the validity of the idea that a “felon” shouldn’t be able to vote.

Is it really fair for a 19-year-old that is caught with less than 50, but more than 30, grams of marijuana, for example, may be branded as a felon for the rest of their life and wouldn’t be able to have a voice in the election of a President of these United States?

Voter turnout is at an all-time low in the United States. It is unfathomable that we should do anything to stand in the way of any citizen to offer their opinion at the polls after serving their time and paying their required debt to society. I may not support President Obama on a lot of things, but this idea has my full backing.

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