A great day for criminals at the polls

A great day for criminals at the polls
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Many voters were soft on criminals in yesterday’s election. Two Congressmen — one in New York, the other in California — were reelected after being indicted and despite facing serious criminal charges (one of them is flagrantly guilty).

New Jersey voters reelected Sen. Bob Menendez, who jurors voted to convict by an 11-to-1 vote (leading to his acquittal, because jury verdicts have to be unanimous). Menendez was admonished for his misconduct by the Senate Ethics Committee, over his accepting gifts from a wealthy ophthalmologist and repaying them with political favors.

Voters in Minneapolis elected left-wing Rep. Ilhan Omar, who illegally married her own brother. Omar deflected any scrutiny of her troubling past and anti-Semitic statements by implying that people were racists or bigots if they raised questions about her misbehavior. Omar is a Muslim born in the East African nation of Somalia. Never mind that there is nothing Islamic about marrying your brother. The liberal Minneapolis Star-Tribune covered for her, rather than probing into her checkered past. Instead, its “news” coverage involved thinly-disguised cheerleading for her election. Rather then digging into her unsavory past, it harped on how she might become be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, or how she would become the first Somali woman in Congress, as if these “firsts” could exempt her from basic legal and ethical rules.

Voters gave felons the right to vote in Florida, in a referendum yesterday (except for murderers and rapists). Supporters of Florida’s Amendment Four claimed it was unfair not to let felons vote. But that is not true: Felons lack basic qualifications for voting. This is why section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment recognizes states’ historic authority to strip people of voting rights “for participation in rebellion, or other crime.”

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Historically, society has not allowed some people to vote, including children, non-citizens, felons, and the mentally incompetent. That is because we have certain minimum standards before giving someone the power to participate in the solemn enterprise of selecting lawmakers and government officials. People who commit serious crimes against their fellow citizens do not qualify.

Indeed, felons are more unqualified to vote than many other people who are not permitted to vote. A bright 16-year old can’t vote, even if she is academically gifted, and shoulders many adult responsibilities, such as having a job, a driver’s license, and paying taxes. A non-citizen cannot vote even if he works in the U.S. and is a legal permanent resident, or serves our country in the armed forces, the way some green-card holders do. Felons are less qualified to vote than these teenagers and legal resident aliens. If it is fair to deny these people the right to vote, surely it is appropriate to deny the right to vote to someone who has shown contempt for the law and the rights of other citizens by committing a violent crime.

Lawbreakers should not become lawmakers. But allowing felons to vote does just that, because felons make law when they vote on ballot propositions, which become state law when they pass. Voters also indirectly engage in lawmaking when they elect lawmakers, who then pass laws. It is doubtful that felons should be allowed to engage in such a solemn enterprise.

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Jerome Woehrle

Jerome Woehrle

Jerome Woehrle is a retired attorney and author, who writes about politics.


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