Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders reiterated his call for everyone -- including prisoners -- to have full voting rights, even if they are terrorists or rapists.
Sanders was asked during a CNN town hall Monday if his call for prisoners to have voting rights includes those convicted of terrorism, like the Boston Marathon Bomber, and those convicted of sexual assault.
“If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they’re going to be punished,” Sanders said. “They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That’s what happens when you commit a serious crime."
"But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy," he added. "Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away ... you’re running down a slippery slope. ... I do believe that even if they are in jail, they’re paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.”
Sanders rejects criticism of his comments:
CNN host Chris Cuomo told Sanders that he may be writing an opposition ad against himself by saying that the Boston Marathon bomber should have voting rights.
“I have written many 30-second opposition ads throughout my life. This will be just another one,” Sanders replied. “This is what I believe. Do you believe in democracy? Do you believe that every single American 18 years of age or older who is an American citizen has the right to vote?"
"Once you start chipping away at that ... that’s what our Republican governors all over this country are doing. They come up with all kinds of excuses why people of color, young people, poor people can’t vote. And I will do everything I can to resist that," he added.
Other Dems split:
California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg had differing opinions from Sanders when asked a similar question during CNN’s marathon of town halls Monday.
Asked about Sanders’ response to the Boston Marathon bomber question, Harris said, “I think we should have that conversation.” Harris said that she supports restoring voting rights to those that have been released from prison but stopped short of endorsing full voting rights for prisoners.
Asked the same question, Buttigieg replied that murderers and rapists should not have voting rights “while incarcerated.”
Buttigieg said he does support voting right restoration for those that have been released from prison.