Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday leaped headfirst into the contentious debate about whether prison inmates — including murderous terrorists — should have the right to vote.
But the freshman New York lawmaker tried to frame the debate in a way that more closely resembled reality by arguing that the overwhelming majority of inmates are not like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who with his brother detonated bombs the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three and injuring hundreds of others.
“To avoid looking completely + utterly out of touch w/ the reality our prison system: Instead of asking, ‘Should the Boston Bomber have the right to vote?’ Try, “Should a nonviolent person stopped w/ a dime bag LOSE the right to vote?’ Bc that question reflects WAY more people,” she declared on Twitter.
The firestorm over inmate voting was sparked on Monday, when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders argued during a CNN town hall that all prison inmates should be allowed to vote.
“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. That is true. So people in jail can vote,” Sanders said.
Asked specifically about Tsarnaev, the Democratic presidential contender doubled down.
“I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” Sanders said. “Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say that person committed a terrible crime, not gonna let him vote, or that person did that, not gonna let that person vote — you’re running down a slippery slope,” he said.
Vermont and Maine are the only two states in the US that allow inmates to vote — even those being housed in prisons in other states.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he did not believe felons should be allowed to vote while incarcerated, although New York law restores their right to vote once they have finished their sentences and any parole or probation they were on.
“I disagree with Bernie Sanders. You are in prison for a felony, you’re paying your debt to society. I don’t think you should have the right to vote and participate as a full citizen,” Cuomo said on CNN.
“Once you pay your debt to society, you’re out, you’re on parole, in this state, you’re being assimilated back into society, fine, then you have a right to vote.”