Bernie Sanders: Felons Should Be Able To Vote From Prison

Bernie Sanders thinks that convicted felons in prison should have the right to vote. 

During a Saturday town hall meeting in Muscatine, Iowa's West Middle School gymnasium, the independent Senator from Vermont was asked whether imprisoned people should have the right to vote. At present, felons in Maine and Vermont can vote from prison. 

"I think that is absolutely the direction we should go," said Sanders, adding "In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That's bad." 

"But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do."

Of note, a 2013 paper from UPenn and Stanford researchers notes that "ex-felons who are registered overwhelmingly register as Democrats" in the state of New York. 

Of those discharge records that match to at least one voter file record, 61.5 percent match only to Democratic voter records. In contrast, 25.5 percent match only to voter records with no affiliation or an affiliation with a minor party, while 9 percent match only to Republican voter records. The remaining 4 percent of matched discharged records are cases where the discharge record matches with multiple voter file records that have inconsistent party identification. - "Do Voting Rights Notification Laws Increase Ex-Felon Turnout?"

A 2014 study from the same researchers notes that Al Gore probably would have become president in the 2000 election if Florida's 600,000 ex-felons had been allowed to vote

It's clear why Democrats want to restore voting rights to felons (and lower the voting age to 16, and resist voter ID). 

2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was asked a similar question on the topic of felons voting during a recent forum, and said that felons who have served their time deserve to vote - though she stopped just 1/1024th short of saying those in prison should be allowed to vote, according to the Des Moines Register

"While they’re incarcerated, I think that’s something we can have more conversation about," said Warren. 

Sanders skipped that presidential forum, which Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. housing secretary Julián Castro, former Maryland U.S. Rep. John Delaney and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan attended.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has advocated this year for a constitutional amendment to allow people convicted of felonies to automatically have their voting rights restored once they have served their sentence. Right now, Iowa is one of two states that only allow felons to vote if a governor gives them permission. -Des Moines Register

Iowa's hopes of letting felons vote were dashed last week as the Republican-controlled senate scuttled the plan - likely killing it for the rest of the year according to the Register