This happy guy appears satisfied that he did his duty as a citizen. Antonio Vassel “Detroit” Brown, 48, had just voted and in response the state has secured a 15 month sentence in jail. “Detroit,” it turns out is from Duluth and is a convicted felon. He was charged with “voting while ineligible” — a sentence that should trigger a long-needed debate over the counterintuitive rule banning felons from trying to participate in the society as full citizens.
Notably, Brown was not charged with selling his vote or other criminal acts. He simply voted in a state that makes citizens ineligible to vote after being convicted of a felony or of treason. They can petition to have those rights restored, which is better than some states. The state law holds that a person “who has been convicted of a felony may vote only if the felony sentence has expired or has been discharged by a court.”
Brown voted in the November 2008 general election and insisted that his .probation officer said he could vote because “no one checks up on it.” The probation officer denied saying that. While such violations are felonies, they are viewed as minor infractions and generally subject to probation. However, Judge John DeSanto sentenced Brown to 15 months in prison. This will however be served concurrently with his other sentences.
The question is why society would want to deter individuals from participating in their government to the fullest extent possible. I can understand that, if you are in prison, you may lose such rights. In that sense, Minnesota takes a middle position. Many states however continue disenfranchise former prisoners who want to play a productive role in their communities. In a 1998 report, Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the
United Sates, Human Rights Watch and The Sentencing Project found an estimated 3.9 million Americans have currently or permanently lost the ability to vote. Some 1.4 millions persons are barred as ex-offenders. Another 1.4 million are barred due to being on probation or parole.
This seems completely counterproductive in terms of rehabilitating and reabsorbing ex-felons into our society. Those who want to vote are the most promising individuals for rehabilitation purposes. Moreover, their voting instills such values in their children.
While Minnesota’s rule is less harsh, the sentence here (even running concurrently) set an excessive standard for future cases.
Source: Duluth News