rhode island voters today considered a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to probationers and parolees in that state. the referendum presented a clash between two deeply-felt imperatives -- the desire to punish criminals and the desire to secure civil rights for all citizens.
if i'm reading the ballot wording* and the results** correctly, voting rights trumped punitiveness tonight and about 15,000 rhode island citizens regained the right to vote.
after reviewing the social scientific evidence to the best of our abilities, jeff manza and i advocated reenfranchising probationers and parolees in locked out. so, yes, i'm pleased with this result. more broadly, however, i'm encouraged to see that at least half the voters plainly see convicted felons as fellow citizens rather than as a permanently stained and stigmatized criminal class, unfit for citizenship. these results might offer a ray of hope to those struggling to make it on the outside and perhaps encourage those working on their behalf.
*here is the wording for question 2:
2. AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE (ELECTIONS - RESTORATION OF VOTING RIGHTS) (Section 1 of Article XIV of the Constitution)
Approval of the amendment to the Rhode Island Constitution set forth below will provide that no person who is incarcerated in a correctional facility upon a felony conviction shall be permitted to vote until such person is discharged from the facility, at which point that person's right to vote shall be restored:
Question 2 APPROVE
Question 2 REJECT
** here are the unofficial results compiled by the rhode island board of elections, as of 1:00 am:
With 565 of 565(100%) precincts reporting statewide STATE QUESTION 2 - VOTER INITIATIVE
Question 2 APPROVE (N) 191,454 51.5%
Question 2 REJECT (N) 180,161 48.5%