Vermont Independent Senator and 2020 Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders said Monday he thinks every US citizen, including convicted criminals should be allowed to vote in US elections, USA Today reports.
Speaking at a CNN Town Hall at St. Anselm College, New Hampshire, Sanders said he thinks felons should be allowed to vote even during their time in prison, not after they are released.
“This is a democracy and we have got to expand that democracy, and I believe every single person does have the right to vote,” he said.
He justified his opinion citing low vote turnover, according to CNN. Allowing incarcerated criminals to vote will help creating a “vibrant” democracy with a much higher voter turnout.
“I believe people commit crimes and they paid the price and they have the right to vote. I believe even if they’re in jail they’re paying their price to society but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy,” Sander said.
The senator underscored that the right to vote should be extended to all criminals — even those convicted for particularly horrible deeds, such as terrorism, murder and sexual assault. He pointed at Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who helped bomb the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others, as an example.
“Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not going to let that person vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope,” Sanders said, answering a student’s question.
Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg rejected the idea.
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“No,” he stated, when asked about felons’ right vote idea. “I do believe that when you are, when you have served your sentence, then part of being restored to society is that you are part of the political life of this nation again and one of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote.”
“You lose your freedom and I think during that freedom it does not make sense to have an exception for it the right to vote,” Buttigieg added.