Sanders: Murderers Shouldn't Lose Voting Rights Because They Are 'Paying the Price' in Prison

April 16, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Monday said murderers and rapists shouldn't lose their voting rights because they are already "paying the price" in prison.

Sanders participated in a Fox News town hall in Bethlehem, Pa., where he was asked by host Martha MacCallum whether he believed rapists and murderers should have the right to vote from prison.

"Good question. In my state, I recently researched this. It turns out that in our Constitution in the state of Vermont for hundreds of years everybody has the right to vote, okay?" Sanders said. "I think you make this division, if somebody does something terrible, they're a rapist or a murderer we send them away. Sometimes we send them away for life, but I also think that integral to who we are as Americans no matter what kind of terrible things you did, you're paying the price. Maybe you're in jail for the rest of your life, but you have the right to vote."

Sanders then shifted his response to talking about the "cowardly Republican governors" and how he believes they are trying to "suppress the vote," saying they are making it harder for people of color, poor people, and young people to vote. He then said that he doesn't like it when politicians start pointing to different crimes and using them to keep people from voting.

"Every American 18 of age or older who's a citizen in this country has the right to vote," Sanders said.

MacCallum followed up by asking, "Couldn't they say the same thing about you and that you just want felons to vote because you think it would be better for you?"

"Oh, come on," Sanders said.

"They could say the same thing, right?" MacCallum asked.

"One of the political problems that we are facing right now is the effort to deny people the right to vote and look, I have run for office many times. Sometimes I've lost. Sometimes I've won, but I don't stay up nights trying to figure out how I can keep people from voting because they might vote against me," Sanders said.

This isn't the first time that Sanders has voiced his support for felons voting from behind bars. Earlier this month, Sanders spoke at a town hall in Muscatine, Iowa, where he said felons voting "is absolutely the direction we should go."

"In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That's bad," he said. "But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) was asked a similar question during a recent forum on rural issues in Iowa but she stopped short of saying felons in prison should be able to vote.

"While they’re incarcerated, I think that’s something we can have more conversation about," she said.