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Jonathan Bernstein

Ex-Felons Deserve the Right to Vote

An expansion of rights opposed by some Republicans is unlikely to make a difference at the polls.

Open to all?

Open to all?

Photographer: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Minnesota earlier this week became the latest state to restore voting rights to ex-felons once they are released from prison. Democrats around the US have been pushing to reduce or eliminate restrictions on voting, in particular fighting to extend voting rights to people on parole or probation. Many Republicans have been pushing back, arguing that rights shouldn’t be restored until all the terms of a sentence have been fulfilled, and perhaps not even then.

Some Republicans also might worry that expanding the voter pool will cost them at the polls. It turns out that any potential effects on election outcomes is small. But disenfranchising ex-felons is indefensible in a democracy.