Franchised Felons | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Franchised Felons 

Local Matters

Martha Stewart won't be voting for George Bush or John Kerry this year -- in fact, she won't be voting at all. The media mogul and convicted felon is serving time, which means that under New York law, she's lost her right to vote just in time for the November election.

Things would have been different if she lived in Vermont, one of only two states that allows convicted felons to vote while imprisoned; the other is Maine. Secretary of State Deb Markowitz confirms that Vermont law has never banned felons from voting, possibly because of Vermonters' willingness to "live and let live." Vermont inmates retain the right to vote during their incarceration, even if they're housed out of state. All they have to do is request an absentee ballot.

Other states make it more difficult for felons to vote even if they've completed their sentences; according to The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit prisoner reform group, 35 states withhold suffrage from felons during parole, 31 during probation. Several other states, like Florida, revoke suffrage from felons and never give it back. An August 18 article in The Washington Post estimates that these restrictions will disenfranchise nearly 4.7 million people this year, including roughly 13 percent of African-American men.

Markowitz says that there has been no effort in recent memory to make Vermont's felon voting law more restrictive. She guesses that's because no one knows how they'll vote. "Felons aren't a voting bloc," she says. But the Post reported that last year, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors admitted a partisan slant to the issue: "As frank as I can be," he said, "we're opposed to [restoring voting rights] because felons don't tend to vote Republican."

Vermont ACLU Executive Director Allen Gilbert says that he hasn't heard any voting-related complaints from Vermont inmates. In Florida, the Secretary of State recently circulated a list of felons to be purged from the voter rolls before election day. But Gilbert says, "There's nothing like that here."

However, Markowitz says just because felons can vote doesn't mean that they do. "I would expect not many do," she says. "By and large, people in prison feel disconnected from the larger community."

Markowitz notes that inmate voter registration programs do exist in Vermont, and suggests that civic engagement can help combat recidivism. "Participation in the democratic process is one way of encouraging that connection with the community," she says.

It's still not too late to register. The deadline in Vermont is October 25.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Cathy Resmer

Cathy Resmer

Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer is an organizer of the Vermont Tech Jam. She also oversees Seven Days' parenting publication, Kids VT, and created the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics initiative. Resmer began her career at Seven Days as a freelance writer in 2001. Hired as a staff writer in 2005, she became... more


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation