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A Tenth Amendment Perspective on Felons' Voting Rights

Institute for Policy Innovation

In an interview with nationally syndicated host Michael Berry, IPI’s Dr. Merrill Matthews discusses the new push from Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to restore by federal statute voting rights to convicted felons while in prison.

Matthews was recently featured in an oped appearing in the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune discussing the proposal, saying, “It is difficult to see why those guilty of heinous crimes should retain their right to vote.” But Matthews concedes different states should have the freedom to make those decisions.

Host Michael Berry asked Matthews his take on the Tenth Amendment aspect, given that in 14 states, felons’ rights to vote are reinstated upon release from prison, whereas in 22 states, felons have to complete parole or probation to regain those rights. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow felons to retain the right to vote from jail.

“I’m perfectly comfortable leaving it to the states,” said Matthews. “If that’s what Vermonters want to do, then I’m glad to let them do it.”

“And I think that’s probably the best system,” agreed Berry. “They’re going to have all sorts of different codes and regulations and positions in the state of Vermont and California than we're going to have in Texas. And as far as I’m concerned, if they want to let their criminals vote while serving their time, so be it, but it shouldn’t be a national policy."

The Michael Berry Shows airs on Houston’s KTRH, San Antonio’s WOAI, Atlanta’s WGST, Nashville’s WLAC, Birmingham’s WERC, Albany, NY’s WGY, Baton Rouge’s WJBO, Beaumont, Texas’ KLVI, and Waco, Texas’ KWTX, among others.  


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