Arapaho is a Rights Restorative State, which means that felons get back their right to vote and participate in the system once their sentence is complete. In my view, this should be the case in all states. I might be more sympathetic to barring felons to vote if felonies were still limited to only the worst of the worst crimes. I was on the fence on this issue until I lived in Belle Rieve for a while and got to know people that would never again be allowed to vote or run for office (in Deseret, anyway) because of a mistake they made when they were 18 or 19.

I only know about Arapaho’s law because there is a local state assembly race that has garnered some statewide attention. One of the candidates, Steve O’Reilly is on something called the Violent Offender’s Registry. Arapaho’s sense of forgiveness apparently only goes so far. Far from being a fringe candidate, he has been endorsed by some powerful conservative groups in the state. The current assemblyman, who happens to be the brother of the first real estate agent we talked to in the area, has a reputation for being something of a squishy moderate.

O’Reilly attributes his crime (the equivalent of a bar fight, except that he found something within arm’s reach to use as a weapon) to an alcoholism he has since conquered. In addition to being an independent businessman, he has apparently been doing some good works in the area. He can appeal to be removed from the VOR, which he evidently plans to do.

I haven’t decided whether I am even going to vote in the next round of current elections. I haven’t really been in the area long enough to know the issues at play. But the Rights Restoration issue is another in a string of rather pleasant things I have discovered with regard to state law that make me feel better to be an Arapahoan than I expected.


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8 Responses to Restorative Democracy

  1. cleared in hot says:

    I never understood not allowing felons to vote, notwithstanding the fact that there is no “right to vote” as such in the Constitution.

  2. Bob V says:

    Practically, it seems unlikely that disallowing felons from voting will do much to
    (1) improve election results
    (2) dissuade potential felons from becoming felons

    On the other hand, “felons shouldn’t be allowed to vote” does tend to elicit a “duh” in response. Unfortunately though, “felons shouldn’t be allowed to [something good]” and “felons should have to [something bad]” will always tend to bring cheers from the crowd whether it makes sense or not. This is why it is so important to remember the purpose of the justice system rather than use our intuition on these issues.

  3. trumwill says:

    Bob beat me to the punch of what I was going to say.

    I think there is the sense that any quarter we give felons is giving them a pass. It’s letting them get away with someone. You committed a felony? We can’t give you full rights back, cause then it would be like you were a non-felon. And you’re a felon. Felon!

    Added to this is that when people think of a generic felon, they tend to think of violent crimes.

  4. Peter says:

    When I was working as a courthouse clerk, in Connecticut in the early 1990’s, a request came in one day from the state elections commission. They were debating whether to revoke the voting rights of a person who had been convicted of a felony and needed certified proof of the conviction. What was strange is that no one in the office knew exactly how to handle the request. It was the first time anyone recalled ever seeing such a request even though (a) the courthouse handled over 100 felony cases per year; (b) some of the workers in the office had been at their jobs for over a decade; and (c) state law required the elections commission to make such a request any time a registered voter was convicted of a felony. The logical conclusion is that it was almost unheard-of for a felony defendant to be a registered voter.

  5. web says:

    Will,

    I disagree with you at least in part.

    To the extent that there are things that are felonies today that probably shouldn’t be, I think that the approach should be to properly fix the law in that designation.

    As far as the concept of convicted felons requiring extra steps to restore their voting rights or other rights (gun ownership comes to mind), I don’t see a problem. A felon is someone who committed a heinous enough crime to be removed from society for a significant period of time. Therefore, letting them out to begin reintegration into society after serving their sentence is one thing, but for certain interactions like voting, I see no objection to requiring them to take an extra step showing that they have really reintegrated and become law-abiding and productive (in at least a relative sense) members of society once more.

    I was on the fence on this issue until I lived in Belle Rieve for a while and got to know people that would never again be allowed to vote or run for office (in Deseret, anyway) because of a mistake they made when they were 18 or 19.

    Even in Deseret, there is a process to have those rights restored to them. If, however, they have since behaved in such a way that they can’t pass a background check or otherwise pass the requirements for having their voting/office rights restored, then it would seem they have continuing problems and I really wouldn’t be happy with their reentry into the voting populace anyways.

  6. trumwill says:

    If they are not ready to be reintegrated into society, they shouldn’t be released. The “extra steps” you’re referring to are what probation and parole are for.

    Any rights that are taken away should be taken away in the sentencing portion of the trial. Beyond that, people should not have to ask to have their rights back.

    I think the voting issue in particular is just petty. Gun ownership I can more easily understand because (a) there is a safety issue that can be immediately at stake and (b) felons are attracted to gun ownership. With voting, though, safety is only tangentially and theoretically involved and few felons really want to vote anyway.

  7. web says:

    So in essence, the difference is between the current (in some states) bit where most of the populace knows and understands that “you are convicted of the following felony” means certain rights are revoked, and having the judge read off a boilerplate of “You have been convicted of Felony X. Your sentence will consist of Sentence Y, along with the revocation of the following rights normally accorded the general population, which you may reapply for through process Z after the court rules you have satisfactorily completed Sentence Y and paid your debt to society: Right 1… Right 2…etc…”

    Do I have that about right?

  8. trumwill says:

    If it’s a part of the original sentencing or not a part of the original sentencing, then it is a product of the state in which you were convicted. Currently, it is a product in the state in which you live. Commit a crime in one state and the day you get out of prison and you get your right to vote (if you’re not on probation or parole). Then you move to another state and you don’t have that right anymore. That state is punishing you for something you did in another state (a punishment the original state may not even have on the books). It’s currently not about making the criminal pay for what they’ve done (State B has no right to do that if the crime was committed in State A), but rather influencing (however marginally) the eligible electorate)

    Also, by making it a part of the original sentencing, it becomes something that can be negotiated if it’s at all important to the accused. It can be left up more to prosecutorial and judicial discretion. If there’s a particular reason to restrict that right (the same reason we might should restrict gun ownership rights to people that commit gun crimes), they can do it. If it doesn’t matter to the state, it can be negotiated in a plea deal.

    All cards on the table, even then I don’t really support restricting voting rights the same way I am sympathetic to gun ownership. But if it were a tool used in cases of the worst offenders or cases where voting rights (or the right to run for public office, as with a recent case of a Colosse politician) are somehow relevant, then I don’t really mind.

    As it stands, though, it strikes me mostly as a way to poke people in the eye and say “Ha! Ha! We’re not letting you get away with anything. Like civic involvement!” Petty.

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