Sanders Supports Allowing the Boston Marathon Bomber to Vote: My Campaign Wants to Create a 'Vibrant Democracy'

April 22, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Monday night said he supported the voting rights of felons, including the Boston Marathon bomber who killed four people and injured 264 others during the 2013 attack.

Anne Carlstein, a Harvard University student, asked Sanders at a CNN town hall in Manchester, N.H. about recent comments supporting felons and sex offenders voting while in prison.

"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.

Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, prefaced his response by talking about how his campaign is seeking to create a "vibrant democracy." He claimed the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts and that he wants to have one of the highest voter turnouts.

Sanders then used the same talking points he used at the Fox News town hall last week, saying "cowardly Republican governors" are trying to suppress the vote. He used the New Hampshire governor and legislature as an example and claimed they are trying to suppress the vote of young people.

"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 tried to make the argument that if you prevent murderers and sex offenders from voting, then it could lead to a "slippery slope" argument, which he says could chip away at the voting rights of criminals with minors.

"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.

Moderator Chris Cuomo followed up to ask Sanders a question, saying that Sanders was writing an opposition ad against himself by saying the Boston Marathon bomber should be allowed to vote, prompting Sanders to shrug and say he has written many opposition ads against himself during his career, saying, "This will be just another one."

"Look, this is what I believe. Do you believe in Democracy? Do you believe that every single American 18 years of age or older who is an American citizen has the right to vote. Once you start chipping away at that, believe me that's what our Republican governors all over this country are doing."

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.