The Democrats have long operated under the view that there are millions of non-voters out there who, if they could just be induced to turn out on election day, would sweep Democratic candidates to victory. The 2004 election proved that millions of folks who haven’t voted before really are partial to the Democrats. However, it also revealed an even larger number of previous non-voters who were partial to President Bush.
Fortunately for the Democrats, there is large bloc of non-voters upon whom they probably could count — felons. George Will discusses the efforts of Senate Democrats Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton to pass legislation that, among other things, would override all state disenfranchisement laws by giving felons the right to vote. Will argues that such a provision is unconstitutional.
One problem with felons is that a disproportionately high number of them commit additional crimes and thus find their way back into the criminal justice system. This makes them the natural allies of the Democrats, many of whom look askance both at tough sentencing laws and judges who take a hard line against crime. These positions likely would become more pronounced if felons were enfranchised.
UPDATE: Here’s my conservative cousin from New York’s take on the Democrats’ felon gambit:
Boy those Democrats sure know how to be tough on crime. Senator Boxer believes that after you’ve paid your debt to society you should have all your rights restored. In her view this is matter of such constitutional urgency that it cannot be left up to state legislatures. What’s next? Will they insist on armed robbers obtaining gun permits or child molesters being allowed to become public school teachers. I’m sure Chuck Schumer will want an exception added to this bill for those convicted of the ultimate crime to liberal piety – demonstrating near an abortion clinic.
FURTHER UPDATE: Here’s John Fund’s take on the subject.