Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders believes that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be given the right to vote while in federal prison.
During Monday’s town hall, Harvard University student Anne Carlstein asked Sanders to expand upon his position about having convicted felons vote while in jail.
“Does this mean that you would support enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber, a convicted terrorist and murderer? Do you think that those convicted of sexual assault should have the opportunity to vote for politicians who could have a direct impact on women’s rights?” she asked.
Sanders repeated his contention that in a democracy, everyone has the right to vote no matter what they have done.
“Here is my view. 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.”
Sanders said once one group is barred from voting, others could follow.
“But, I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘That guy committed a terrible crime, not gonna let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not gonna let that person vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope,” he said, later adding, “(T)hat’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.”
Sanders said felons pay a sufficiently high price by losing their freedom
“So, I believe that people who commit crimes, they pay the price. When they get out of jail, I believe they certainly should have the right the vote, but 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.”
Some on Twitter, including Republican Sen. LIndsey Graham of South Carolina, pushed back against Sanders.
Really? Mass murderers and rapists get to vote? I honestly don’t want to live in the America that Bernie Sanders wants to build because I believe it will destroy whatever tattered sense of decency, honor, and honesty still remains for us to save…. https://t.co/mR9Nfbua5s
— Andrew Wilk (@Andrew_M_Wilk) April 23, 2019
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse….@BernieSanders supports allowing rapists, murderers, and terrorists – like the Boston bomber and Dylan Roof, the individual who massacred 9 church-goers in Charleston, to vote from prison. https://t.co/1wd8EBJHiS
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) April 23, 2019
After Sanders spoke, CNN host Chris Cuomo said the candidate had just written an opposition ad against himself.
“I have written many 30-second opposition ads throughout my life. This will be just another one,” Sanders responded. “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? This is a democracy. We’ve got to expand that democracy and I believe that every single person does have the right to vote.”
The subject also arose during a CNN town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
“People who are convicted, in prison, like the Boston Marathon bomber, on death row, people who are convicted of sexual assault, they should be able to vote?” CNN host Don Lemon asked Harris, a former prosecutor.
“I think we should have that conversation,” she replied.
“I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship. And it is something that people should not be stripped of needlessly, which is why I have been a long been an advocate of making sure people formally incarcerated are not denied the right to vote. In some states they’re permanently deprived of the right to vote,” she added.
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