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Off the Hill | University of Nevada at Las Vegas

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 08:02

An article in The Las Vegas Review-Journal was posted regarding the issue of restoring voting rights to former inmates. Attorney General Eric Holder has led the charge towards reform on the issue.

Earlier this week, Holder urged a group of 11 states to give former inmates their right to vote as a means of remedying flaws in our system. He feels that this voting limitation has the most impact on racial minorities.

“Let ex-felons vote, U.S. attorney general urges Nevada,” the article reported.

A total of 5.8 million Americans are not able to vote because of a prior or current felony conviction. Of this 5.8 million, approximately 2.2 million are African-American.

Nevada is one among many states such as Arizona, Nebraska, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia and Tennessee that restrict the voting rights of former inmates.

After reading the article, I automatically put myself in the shoes of a convicted felon.

When a person commits a crime of any degree, they put themselves in a position to lose all of the freedoms that they once enjoyed as a law-abiding citizen. People make their own choices, and regardless of whether these choices are good or bad, they must live with their consequences.

My lack of knowledge of what a felony is had prevented the formation of a balanced opinion. After doing some research, I found out that felonies are any of the following: rape, murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, treason, robbery, grand theft, fraud, burglary, racketeering, espionage and battery.

The punishments for these crimes vary from community service all the way up to the death sentence.

These crimes are vicious -- they don’t “just happen.” They take some kind of thought process from the person who is about to carry it out.

Specific crimes that involve the violation of others are of the worst kind -- especially in the case of rape. A person who consciously rapes another person does not, and should not, get the right to vote, nor should they enjoy any other privileges.

But then, I started thinking about all the mistakes I have made and all the second chances that I have been given. I started thinking about the teenagers who, trying to make friends, decided to rob a house.

Or the father who killed the man that took advantage of his little girl. A crime is still a crime -- I’m not trying to ignore that, but the intent behind the crime is not always malicious, so do these people not deserve the chance to vote?

Whether or not they get the right to vote isn’t up to me, but I do believe that everyone should get the chance to right a wrong that they have made in life.

I say this knowing that what applies to one must apply to all, but the process to acquire any rights that may have been lost during the course of the individual’s imprisonment should not be taken lightly, nor should it be done in a quick manner; it deserves the proper time and attention.

So, should former felons get the right to vote? The answer isn’t easy to come to, and I am no closer to a solution than when I started this article.

“Every choice you make has an end result,” motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar once said.

The end result may not always be so clear, and people often get caught up in the moment and throw caution to the wind. One simple action can set off a chain of events that have an end result far beyond what was expected.

Every choice you make in life has consequences. So choose wisely.

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