Ocasio-Cortez's Chief Supports Felon Voting Rights

'Shouldn't the people most affected by unjust laws have some say'

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Getty Images
April 24, 2019

Saikat Chakrabarti, the chief of staff for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), on Wednesday backed Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) support for allowing felons to vote, asking, "Shouldn't the people most affected by unjust laws have some say in electing people to change them?"

Chakrabarti came to Sanders's defense on Twitter.

"What's the reason NOT to let incarcerated people vote? Shouldn't the people most affected by unjust laws have some say in electing people to change them?" Chakrabarti wrote.

Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, has been asked to address his position on letting felons, including murderers and sex offenders, vote from behind bars during his last two town halls. During the Fox News town hall last week, he said that allowing felons to vote is "absolutely the direction we should go."

During a CNN town hall on Monday night, he was asked a question by Anne Carlstein, a Harvard University student, addressing his comment at the Fox News town hall.

"Does this mean you would support enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber, a convicted terrorist and murderer. Do you think those convicted of sexual assault should have the opportunity to vote for politicians who could have a direct impact on women's rights?" Carlstein asked.

"Anne to answer your question, as it happens in my own state of Vermont, from the very first days of our state's history, what our Constitution says is that everybody can vote," Sanders said.

"If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they're going to be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That's what happens when you commit a serious crime, but I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people."

He then argued that if you prevent murderers and sex offenders from voting, then it could lead to a "slippery slope" eliminating the voting rights of citizens who commit lesser crimes.

"Even if they are in jail, they're paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our Democracy," Sanders said.