Progressive Activists, Officials Work to Extend Voting to Prisoners, Noncitizens to Expand Base

by Fred Lucas


Inmate voting, noncitizen voting, and even mandatory voting have been among the initiatives pushed in Democrat-led jurisdictions this year to expand their voting base.

“The Left wants to normalize voter classes that nobody took seriously a generation ago—criminals, foreigners—to help them win elections,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity group, told The Daily Signal.

As I noted in my book “The Myth of Voter Suppression,” Democrats long have sought to change election laws to gain a political advantage.

The nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, adopted noncitizen voting this year for local elections such as mayor and city council. Oregon lawmakers are pushing prisoner voting, while blue states on the West and East coasts are considering mandatory voting.

“The Left talks big about ‘helping everyone vote,’ but for at least the past decade, they’ve focused all their efforts on only helping their preferred voters cast a ballot,” Hayden Ludwig, director of policy research at Restoration of America, a conservative group, told The Daily Signal in an email. “Everything from lowering the voting age to vote-by-mail and felon voting rights is geared to drive turnout among the ‘New American Majority,’ their term for the demographic groups Democrats are pinning all their hopes on.”

The District of Columbia is looking to join five states—California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Vermont—to allow noncitizen voting in local elections for municipal offices or school boards, according to the organization Americans for Citizen Voting. A court has blocked the law from taking effect in New York City.

Democrats in the Oregon state Legislature advanced a bill to make the state the third in the country to allow inmates to vote, following Vermont and Maine. The Oregon Legislature is in session until June 26, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“People vote when they are in nursing homes, when they are in hospitals. People have the right to vote when they are receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse or mental health issues,” Democratic Oregon state Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, told NBC News. “We don’t condition the right to vote. Once we start making exceptions to that, where do you stop?”

These initiatives are a power play by Democrats, said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at The Heritage Foundation, the parent organization of The Daily Signal.

“Prisoners were convicted because they would not abide by the laws society imposed,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal.  “Americans decide what rules and laws are in place through the voting process.”

Democratic majorities in Connecticut and Washington state have pushed legislation for mandatory voting, which proponents call “universal civic duty voting.”

The Connecticut proposal would impose a fine for not voting, but the Washington proposal, SB 5209, lacks an enforcement mechanism.

The Connecticut Legislature wraps up its session on June 7. The Washington Legislature adjourned last month, but the legislation could be proposed again.

The Connecticut mandatory voting bill, HB 5704, doesn’t specify what the fine would be. The bill’s sponsor, Connecticut state Rep. Josh Elliott, has said it would be a nominal fee of no more than $20.

“Connecticut residents are mandated to pay taxes, do jury duty, and abide by tomes of laws. Nearly every law we make is a mandate—a voluntary law isn’t much of a law,” Elliott wrote in an op-ed in the Connecticut Post newspaper.

“First, if you don’t vote, it would not be a criminal offense. The idea is not to create additional carceral punishment—we are looking for a sea change in how we approach our democracy,”
Elliott added. “As we go through the legislative process, we will determine what the ‘stick’ is—in Australia, the first-time offense is $20, and future offenses are $50—but this will be up for debate. Similar costs would be more punitive to those of lesser means, and that will need to be a prevalent aspect of the conversation.”

Former Connecticut Secretary of State Miles Rapoport, a Democrat, testified in favor of the legislation before a joint legislative committee that 26 countries have mandatory voting. And last year, Chile adopted it.

“The strategy of only appealing to your own base (and worse, attempting to discourage the other candidate’s base) would be counterproductive,” Rapoport told lawmakers on March 6. “If, as a candidate or a party, you know that every eligible citizen is required to vote, and therefore, everyone is listening, you need to speak to everyone and persuade them of the merits of your candidate’s ideas.”

But imposing this law in any state would clearly violate the First Amendment, argued Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

“It’s totally unconstitutional. It violates freedom of association and freedom of speech,” Adams said of mandatory voting. “It’s an insane authoritarian thing to do. Mandatory voting might conceivably even result in a stronger Republican showing, since this is a center-right country. Even if it did, it would still be an insane idea.”

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Fred Lucas is chief news correspondent and manager of the Investigative Reporting Project for The Daily Signal. Lucas is also the author of “The Myth of Voter Suppression: The Left’s Assault on Clean Elections.” Send an email to Fred.
Photo “A Group of Prisoners Leaning on the Wall” by cottonbro.



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