Vice President Gore and Bill Bradley are tapping every Democratic
constituency they can think of, including ex-cons. At last night's debate
in Des Moines, one questioner asked whether felons should have the vote,
especially considering so many black men have spent time behind bars.
(States have the right to disenfranchise convicted felons, even after
they've served time.)
Said Gore: "I think that the definition of what kind of crimes
automatically fall in the category that triggers that exclusion from the
franchise could well benefit from a fresh review. ... I will review it."
He went on to say that "heinous crimes" warrant disenfranchisement.
Bradley said that if a "nonviolent" felon "is able to go straight for two
years, three years, I think that person ought to be able to wipe his
record clean and start the day anew. And that's what I would attempt to
The problem is, it would probably take a constitutional amendment. Right
now, neither Congress nor the president has the authority to tell states
they must allow convicts to vote. If the federal government thought it had
evidence that a state was disenfranchising felons with the intent of
keeping blacks from the ballot box, it could step in. But lacking
that--and so far, nobody has presented any such proof--it's up to the
states. (See the House testimony of the Center for Equal Opportunity's
Roger Clegg at http://www.ceousa.org/html/clegg2.html.)
We look forward to learning which other parts of the Constitution Gore and
Bradley intend to revise or ignore.