Bernie Sanders: Felons Should Be Allowed to Vote While in Prison

Bernie Sanders: Felons Should Be Allowed to Vote While in Prison

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called for felons to be allowed to vote while in prison during a campaign event in Iowa Saturday, The Des Moines Register reports.

Sanders was asked whether prisoners should have the right to vote during a town hall meeting in Muscatine.

"I think that is absolutely the direction we should go," Sanders replied.

Vermont and Maine are the only two states that allow felons to vote while behind bars.

"In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That's bad," Sanders said. "But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”

Others Democrats disagree:

Sanders is the first 2020 presidential candidate to back the idea of felons voting behind bars.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she supported restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time but stopped short of backing voting rights for those still in prison.

"Once someone pays their debt to society, they're out there expected to pay taxes, expected to abide by the law, they're expected to support themselves and their families," Warren said. "I think that means they've got a right to vote."

"While they're incarcerated, I think that's something we can have more conversation about,” she added.

Voting rights a key issue in Iowa:

Voting rights for felons who have served their time has been a key issue on the campaign trail in Iowa, where Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds backed an amendment to restore voting rights to ex-felons before the Republican-led state Senate thwarted the proposal.

Florida voters recently approved an automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons but those plans have been partially derailed by Republican state lawmakers, who added a provision requiring former felons to pay large fees and fines in a move critics have called a “poll tax.”