Universal Suffrage

UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE….Over at The Corner yesterday there were a couple of posts about whether felons who have served their time should be allowed to vote. I almost responded, but 24 was on and then I forgot all about it.

That is, until I opened up the LA Times today and saw that National Review’s Jonah Goldberg had an entire op-ed on the subject. There’s not much to it, really. After a bit of guffawing aimed at Marion Barry and then some further guffawing about how it’s no surprise that criminals vote for Democrats ? yuk yuk ? he gets to the meat of his complaint:

As a matter of principle, I oppose voting by ex-cons because voting should be harder, not easier ? for everybody….If you are having an intelligent conversation with somebody, is it enriched if a mob of uninformed louts, never mind ex-cons and rapists, barges in? People who want to make voting easier are in effect saying that those who previously didn’t care or know enough about the country to vote are exactly the kind of voters this country needs now.

If you asked me to name the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizen ? the absolute minimum core that we could have and still call ourselves America ? I’d name three: freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and the right to vote. The government should not be in the business of limiting any of these things except in the most extreme cases.

Felons who have paid their debt have paid their debt. Once they’ve served their time, their right to free speech and their right to a fair trial are restored, and I can’t think of any reason why their right to vote shouldn’t be too. If you’re a citizen, you should get to vote, period.

As for the idea that we should make voting harder in order to keep away the “uninformed louts,” I have only one question: who decides who the louts are? National Review? The same magazine that ran an article in 1965 opposing the Voting Rights Act because, “Over most of this century, the great bulk of Southern Negroes have been genuinely unqualified for the franchise”? The magazine whose founder wrote sympathetically that, “In much of the South, what is so greatly feared is irresponsible, mobocratic rule, and it is a fear not easily dissipated, because it is well-grounded that if the entire Negro population in the South were suddenly given the vote, and were to use it as a bloc, and pursuant to directives handed down by some of the more demagogic leaders, chaos would ensue”?

I think not.