Ocasio-Cortes Weighs in on Prisoners’ Right to Vote

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has weighed in on the debate about whether imprisoned felons should be allowed to vote by suggesting opponents ask a series of questions to themselves to avoid looking “completely and utterly out of touch,” Newsweek reported.

The Democratic Rep. for New York’s 14th congressional district posted a series of tweets in response to the discussion stemming from comments made by 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

During a CNN town hall, Sanders said he supports allowing “terrible people” such as murderers, sex offenders and the Boston Marathon bomber the right to vote while incarcerated.

“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 when asked directly about bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“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.”

Vermont, the state Sen. Sanders represents, and Maine are the only two states in the U.S. which allow prisoners to vote.

Ocasio-Cortez argued that people should consider how the prison system is unjust to minorities when discussing taking away their voting rights.

“To avoid looking completely + utterly out of touch w/ the reality our prison system: Instead of asking, ‘Should the Boston Bomber have the right to vote?’ Try, ‘Should a nonviolent person stopped w/ a dime bag LOSE the right to vote?’ Bc that question reflects WAY more people,” she tweeted. “Black Americans & PoC are far more likely to be convicted + sentenced longer than White Americans for similar crimes. Our system routinely criminalizes poverty + exonerates wealth.”

“We ‘shouldn’t’ incarcerate for nonviolent offenses, we ‘shouldn’t’ have school-to-prison pipelines, we ‘shouldn’t’ sentence POC more than white people for similar crimes…but we do. We’re so eager to talk about punishment, but correcting our injustices is ‘controversial’,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

One of those who disagree with Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “You are in prison for a felony, you are paying your debt to society,” he told CNN’s New Day.  “I don’t think you should have the right to vote and participate as a full citizen. Once you pay your debt to society, you’re out, you’re on parole in this state, you’ve been assimilated back into society, fine. Then you have a right to vote. But I totally disagree with Bernie Sanders.”

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