It’s sad that the state rarely takes advantage of these opportunities. (Consider Gov. Robert Bentley’s refusal to expand Medicaid coverage to as many as 300,000 Alabamians because of his hatred for the Affordable Care Act.) Alabama regularly has only itself to blame.
Modern, progressive America says most of those convicted of crimes should be ushered back into society after they have served their time and paid their fines. The exceptions are the worst of the worst: murderers, rapists, child-molesters. The obvious goal is helping the punished become productive Americans who work, pay taxes, contribute to society and get on with their lives.
It is the right thing to do.
That’s why we applaud U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s plea to the 11 states that restrict felons’ voting rights. Alabama, our state, is one of the 11. Holder’s request is exactly what this page has campaigned for for years — a restoration of felons’ voting rights after they have completely repaid their debt to society.
The attorney general is basing his call on the disproportionately high number of minorities this disenfranchisement affects. Factually, he is correct. Holder, speaking in Washington Tuesday, said nearly 6 million Americans can’t vote because of current or previous felony convictions; 2.2 million black Americans — 1 in 13 black adults — are banned from voting due to these laws.
We wholeheartedly support Holder’s stance and his logic, with this caveat: Alabama should restore voting rights to felons because of the greater good it does society in our state. Any state is better when its residents are engaged, productive and involved in the state’s affairs. Having the right to vote is a cornerstone of American democracy.
Too often opponents of this restoration consider only the crime and punishment — which are vital — and ignore the byproducts of incarceration. That Republican tough-on-crime stance looks good on election day to conservative voters, but it does nothing to help those who’ve done everything the state has required them to do.