Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says the right to vote should be extended to all people, including those in prison.
On Monday night during a CNN Town Hall, the senator was asked whether people like the Boston marathon bomber and sexual abusers should be allowed to vote.
“Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away” at people’s constitutional rights, even those who have committed a crime, “you’re running down a slippery slope,” said Sanders.
The rights of incarcerated people have received more attention in recent years as organizers demand fair wages and better living conditions for people in prison.
In the 2018 midterms, Florida voters restored voting rights to people in the state who had been convicted of felonies, a move that will overwhelmingly impact black people who are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people. Some organizers see the issue as an “institutionalization of slavery.”
Currently only two states allow people to vote while they are in prison, including Maine and the senator’s home state of Vermont. Sanders was pressed on the issue at another town hall in Muscatine, Iowa, earlier this month, arguing that people who are incarcerated still live “in American society and you have a right to vote.”
Sanders pointed to Vermont’s policy, and argued, “What our constitution says is that everybody can vote. So people in jail can vote.”
The senator went on to discuss other voter suppression efforts across the country, including in New Hampshire, where the town hall was held.
“Cowardly Republican governors are trying to suppress the vote. In fact, right here in New Hampshire, the legislature and the government are making it more difficult for young people to vote,” said Sanders.
Ahead of Monday’s town hall, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen urged 2020 Democrats in an open letter to support repealing the controversial law, which would require college students be permanent residents in order to vote in the state.
“I am asking every candidate for President to stand up for these students, condemning these tactics and protecting the integrity of New Hampshire’s voting process by signing a petition publicly denouncing this voter suppression law,” Shaheen wrote.
Sanders said his campaign seeks to create a vibrant democracy, starting with the rights of all people to participate in the voting process.