Voting Eligibility (Part 1) — Crime & Citizenship


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Who is allowed to vote?

Well, depending on where you go, you will get a very different answer. Do you have to be of good character? Can you currently vote while in prison? Do you even have to be a citizen?

This topic could fill several books, but this is just a starter piece. The article focuses on 2 main areas: criminality and non-citizenship

Canada, Criminality:
The Canada Elections Act of 1985 used to prohibit a person from being able to vote if they are serving a federal sentence (2 years or more). However, that was struck down in 2002. The Crown conceded it violated Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that everyone had the right to vote in elections to govern the country. To be fair though, the dissenting Justices thought that the violations were reasonable. As things stand now, even persons in custody are allowed to vote, and jail officials must make accommodation for them to do so.

American, Criminality
The case of Richardson v. Ramirez (1974), held that the 14th Amendment, Section 2, was not violated in barring felons form voting (called felony disenfranchisement). Since then, the 50 states have written their own laws, and they widely vary widely, from Maine, which allows voting while incarcerated, to voting after release, to Idaho and voting after probation ends, to never voting, to Florida requiring a petition.

Australian, Criminality
Things are a bit different here. For starters, voting is mandatory. There are arguments both for and against it. In the past, anyone serving a sentence of 1 year or more was unable to vote. As it stands now, only those serving a sentence of at least 3 years cannot vote until the sentence is finished.

British, Criminality
The UK is having to revise their policies on letting prisoners and convicts vote, because of the European Court of Human Rights. Originally, they couldn’t, but that is changing. Interestingly, Members of Parliament can keep their seat if they have been sentenced to 1 year or less. So they could hold office, but not vote.

Much Europe has some restriction of voting rights, such as type of offense, and is the sentence fully served.

Laws vary widely around the world. However, the main argument against letting cons, or ex-cons vote is that they have violated the social contract with the people, and hence should not be a part of forming its laws.

Voting by Non-Citizens

While this list is too extensive to go through, many countries do allow permanent residents to vote if they have lived their for a long enough period.

Also many cities, such as San Francisco, Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary, Vancouver, allow voting for permanent residents.

One argument against letting non-citizens vote is that it weakens what it means to be a citizen. What then, distinguishes a citizen from a resident? A second is that the longer time to obtain citizenship is necessary to fully adapt to the new homeland. A third is that it leads to divided loyalty from Members of Parliament/Congress, who will look towards future voters more than current ones. All have some merit.

A push over the years from leftist politicians has been to let “undocumented immigrants” (a.k.a.) “illegal immigrants” vote in elections, as well as to reduce or eliminate voter identification requirements.

Note: Women are now allowed to vote in Western countries as well as many others. New Zealand and Australia led the way.

Author’s Views:
However, things do, or at least should have a limit.

(1) There have been many challenges to Voter ID laws, claiming that it discriminates against people who can’t get identification. The usual claim is wither poverty, or that the community lacks these services. Really, a legal citizen, or at least permanent resident can’t get I.D.?! Of course, if they are “undocumented”, that may be why they can’t get “documents”.

(2)So-called “Sanctuary Cities” are letting illegal immigrants vote which seems bizarre. Why should people in the country illegally be helping to vote in people to draft laws? Seems like a serious conflict of interest here.

It seems that items (1) and (2) are very much linked. Could objecting to voter I.D. requirements be to enable, or help cover up, illegal immigrants voting? Hard to say, there is no “documentation”. Could it be to help “elect” candidates who would push for more immigration and easier citizenship paths?

As for convicts voting, obviously everyone has different ideas. My personal choice would be: (a) not while in jail or parole; and (b) not for serious crimes such as murder/treason/terrorism/drug trafficking/sex offenses.

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