Sanders on Felons Voting From Behind Bars: 'That Is Absolutely the Direction We Should Go'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Steve Pope/Getty Images)
April 8, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said in Iowa Saturday that felons should not lose their right to vote even if they are still serving their prison sentence.

A large majority of states disenfranchise felons, but Sanders believes they should still have their voting rights, according to the Des Moines Register. As the senator of one of the two states who allow felons to vote from behind bars, Sanders responded in the affirmative to a question about whether felons serving their prison sentences should still have the right to vote.

"I think that is absolutely the direction we should go," he said.

Sanders, who announced back in February that he was running for president, was speaking at a town hall in Muscatine. Next year, the Iowa Caucuses will kick off the Democratic primary season, but campaigns already have Sanders and many others taking trips to the Hawkeye State. Sanders is hoping to achieve what he narrowly missed in 2016—when Hillary Clinton won the caucuses en route to defeating Sanders for the nomination—and part of his argument is that Vermont's treatment of felons should be the norm.

"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 Storm Lake, 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.

Warren and Sanders have been jockeying for leadership of the Democratic Party's progressive wing, which Sanders was able to electrify in 2016. Sanders has consistently led Warren by double-digits in polls, although he trails former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce his candidacy.