A promised turkey of a measure has landed upon the legislature.
A bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons before the completion of their sentence from State Senator Craig Tieszen has been introduced in the State Senate, despite earlier promised opposition from the Secretary of State. The measure, Senate Bill 112 primed by Tieszen in the Senate and Rep. Steve Hickey in the House, would walk back a reform measure passed in 2012 which cleared up a confusing multi-tiered system which left many felons unsure if they could vote or not.
The measure is scheduled to be heard in Senate State Affairs at 10 AM tomorrow morning in Room 414.
SB 112 changes the law, basing it on whether the felon is imprisoned or not, as opposed to it being based on a convicted felon’s completion of sentence. As noted in the Argus article, Tieszen believes it’s the right thing to do:
Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, says he plans push for the bill this legislative session. Tieszen says giving felons the chance to be good citizen by allowing them to vote is the right thing to do.
As noted earlier this month in an article by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the person in charge of South Dakota elections, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs ,earlier voiced opposition to the measure, as well as the person who introduced the 2012 measure, Gene Abdallah:
“I feel they should complete their entire sentence, and at this time I don’t see supporting his legislation,” said Shantel Krebs, South Dakota secretary of state. “I think there’s are a lot of questions out there such as, ‘What if a person violates their parole?’ “
Gene Abdallah, a former U.S. marshal and state lawmaker who was the prime sponsor of the revision to felony voting rights that passed in 2012, also opposed Tieszen’s proposed bill.
“I think they should wait until after their parole and after their sentence is finished,” Abdallah said.
Krebs brings up an excellent point about parole violators confusing the system, which would require even more of a data exchange between courts and the Secretary of State data systems than exist now.
And I can’t help but give strong deference to the original point made by the sponsor – “they should wait until after their parole and after their sentence is finished.” When someone commits a crime, in many instances there are crime victims. Part of the process is the state obtaining justice on their behalf, and that’s done through the sentence being imposed. Justice is far from perfect, in fact, it’s quite imperfect, and rarely in proportion to the harm.
When you see these types of bills, as they talk about restoring things to those poor, poor convicted felons, I can’t help but consider that the people introducing such measures are giving far more deference to the criminals who commit the crimes, than the victims.
I do think there’s a place to give felons the chance to be good citizens. It’s by example. The example should be to complete the sentence handed down by the courts. They earned it, so they should own it. And by successfully completing it while remaining a good citizen, they’ll have earned their right to vote back.
And only then.