Republican State Senator wants voting felons. Bad idea.

So, what happened to paying your debt to society? Republican State Senator Craig Tieszen want to give voting rights back to felons as soon as they’re out of prison.

According to KOTA news:

District 34 Senator Craig Tieszen will introduce a bill this legislative session to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they get out of prison.

State law dictates that felons have to wait until their parole is finished.

But keeping in line with the state’s mission to reform criminal justice, Tieszen said Friday that it is only fair that felons get the chance to take part in the voting process.

Read it here.

Sorry, but that’s just a bad move, and no reason to be soft on criminals. What’s next? A polling place at the state pen? The fact of the matter is that in 2012, South Dakota finally fixed what was a confusing patchwork system and clarified that:

Under South Dakota Codified Law § 12-4-18, a person convicted of a felony in either federal or state court on or after July 1, 2012 loses the right to vote. A person so disqualified becomes eligible to register to vote upon completion of his or her entire sentence. A person who receives a suspended imposition of sentence does not lose the right to vote.

Read that here.. If you look at that page, it details the mess we had before.

And, the truth is that there’s a lot more to sentences than jail time. There’s restitution, there’s treatment, and a host of other remedies and hoops the court may require before the felon has completed their sentence and has their full citizenship restored.

Why would we give someone less incentive to fulfill their obligations? Because while some think it might be fair for the felon, what about fairness for the victim? Shouldn’t, say an embezzler, meet the sentence requirement of restitution before having their right restored?

It’s even a worse idea this year. Why? Two words – Annette Bosworth.

Say this law passes. If Annette is convicted (or pleads guilty) to election violations, for a white collar petition felony charge, she likely would not spend one hour in prison. Which, under the Tieszen proposal, means her right to vote would suffer no consequences whatsoever.

Why would we want to do that for election violators? Shouldn’t there be some effect on a right to vote in that situation?

There are a lot of reasons to reject this. Most importantly, I keep coming back to the fact we just fixed this law in 2012. So why would we step backwards and make it a confusing mess again?

That’s just a bad idea.

12 thoughts on “Republican State Senator wants voting felons. Bad idea.”

    1. He’s the retired Chief of Police from the State’s second largest city, and Chairman of the judiciary committee.

  1. He is a clown if you’ve ever had a conversation with him. Definitively republican light. Not sure how he got this position.

  2. I will be curious to see how the libertarian leaning Republicans vote on this. There are a couple in Pierre who are police officers or retired police. Daniel Kaiser and Tieszen.

    Is this a Ron Paul movement?

    What does Marty Jackley think?

  3. Anonymous 12:55,

    You make an interesting point. This is the type of issue where conservatives and libertarians can both make solid philosophical arguments on opposite sides of the issue.

    And take out the raw electoral calculation and perception criminals traditionally vote more often with Democrats, progressives (who are more open to using incentives and disincentives to reward/punish behavior) and traditional civil rights liberals have a similar philosophical conundrum.

    A lot of irony and paradox here. My guess is there will be no change as I see the legislature with stronger conservative tendencies than libertarian.

  4. tieszen is ok. his bill will get an early smashing. if the felons get voting rights back anyway at some point, what argument can be made for speeding up the process?

  5. This is solely my opinion, but as screwed up as the parole system is in South Dakota we may as well give convicted felons the right to vote immediately upon release as well as the carte blanche they already have while allegedly on parole…any ramifications of their crimes are already being kicked to the curb on a regular basis so why not lift anything else that might even remotely resemble continuing punishment? (sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now and retreat to my corner)

  6. The logic of this escapes me. It’s a debate about at what point they have been rehabilitated enough to have the final franchise of citizenship restored. I don’t understand why that would happen before they have paid their full debt. If that rationale were valid, you could pick any arbitrary point – like two weeks after sentencing. There is a logic to not getting to participate in picking society’s leaders, until you’ve paid your full debt and are not improperly motivated.

  7. I don’t see why any citizen’s voting rights should ever be revoked for any reason. It makes every person so disenfranchised ‘a political prisoner.’ Meanwhile, all the social miscreants who haven’t been caught (arguably the most devious and reprehensible) still get to vote with impunity.

  8. Honestly I don’t see this getting out of committee . Say what you want but he goes unchallenged in his district . His constituents must like his political agenda .

Comments are closed.