Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Interesting Thoughts

On Monday the Supreme Court reportedly asked President Obama his opinion on laws that bar felons from voting and whether they violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

Years and years ago, circa 1793, President Washington asked the Supreme Court (specifically John Jay) to opine on the 1778 Franco-American Treaty and America's obligations stemming therefrom. John Jay sent a letter to President Washington at the time declining to offer an opinion unless there was an actual controversy - the Court was the "Court of last resort," and could not offer advisory opinions, which generally speaking, the Court has done a decent job of respecting.

I think the question on whether a felon should be deprived their right to vote is an interesting one. As a general principle, I don't object to stripping felons of the right to vote. I think that this should serve as a strong deterrent to committing felonies. I also understand that voting is a "Fundamental right" and as such is a right available to all American Citizens. I do think there could be some precedent against denying the vote to convicted felons. There's an old case from the last century involving forced sterilization of people convicted of 3 felonies in Oklahoma. The statute was struck down because of the technicalities in filing charges - stealing chickens could be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on certain circumstances (this is a VERY abbreviated version of the case). I would think that this case which involved a fundamental right would be pertinent to the instant question...

I guess I'm split. I like the idea of denying the vote to people who show such disdain for our laws that they commit felonies, but on the other hand, I think there's a strong question about the Constitutionality of the ban...

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