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Poll: Lock Them Up and Throw Away Their Right to Vote?

Convicted felons in New Jersey can't vote, even if they're on parole or probation. Advocates say this is too harsh and punishes African-Americans disproportionately. What do you think?

Several legislators and a coalition of some 80 organizations launched this week an effort to give the right to vote back to people on parole, on probation, and serving prison time for a felony conviction.

Currently, a person loses the right to vote once judged guilty of crimes of at least the fourth degree - that includes hoplifting worth $200 or more through murder. They cannot vote again until completing their entire sentence; that extends to any parole or probation served outside of incarceration.

More than 94,000 New Jerseyans are currently barred from voting due to the prohibition, which dates back to 1844.

Advocates and lawmakers, all members of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, say giving these people back the right to vote is a civil rights issue. No one should lose the right to vote, they say, and this disenfranchisement disproportionately hurts African-Americans because they are overrepresented in the state's justice system.

Opponents say the loss of the right to vote is a just punishment for committing a serious crime, and the current system, which allows people to re-register to vote after having served all the terms of their sentence, is appropriate and working well.

Should felons and others still serving sentences be given the right to vote?

  • Yes. The advocates are right. No one should lose the right to vote for any reason, even if someone has committed a heinous crime. Voting is a fundamental right to those of us living in a democracy that should not be taken away.

  • Yes. It is shameful that this has disenfranchised so many blacks - more than half of those who can't vote due to a conviction are African-American, even though blacks make up only about 15 percent of the state's population. Our justice system is biased and blacks should not suffer as a result.

  • Sort of. I support giving a person the right to vote once he is out of prison, even if still on parole or if only sentenced to probation. However, I don't think a person should vote while incarcerated; one loses the right to freedom while in jail so it seems perfectly reasonable to also lose the right to vote.

  • No. Losing the right to vote is part of the punishment meted out for committing a crime. Whether one is incarcerated or is serving all or part of a sentence outside prison walls, they are subject to the penalties society chooses and the inability to vote should be one of those. The loss of the right to vote is definitely an appropriate price to pay for committing a serious crime.

  • No. I don't want murderers and rapists choosing my legislators, council members, and school board members. In fact, those convicted of the worst crimes should lose the right to vote for the rest of their lives. The only reason the Democrats are pushing for this is because they think all these felons are going to vote for them.

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