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Question 2 May Limit Felons’ Right to Vote

By May Zhou

STAFF REPORTER

Question 2 is a proposed amendment to the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that, if passed, would limit the voting rights of convicted felons.

Massachusetts is currently one of only three states that allow felons to vote while in jail. Felons may vote by absentee ballot in their city or town of residence before incarceration. Enactment of Question 2 would prohibit jailed felons from voting in elections for governor, lieutenant governor, state senator, state representative, and other state government officials.

Though the right of prisoners to vote was affirmed by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in 1977, Question 2 has not produced very passionate political clashes. The initiative has been overshadowed by other controversial petitions this year.

Those supporting Question 2 have rallied behind the Massachusetts House Minority Leader, Francis L. Marini (R-Hanson). In his argument printed in the voter’s guide to the ballot questions, Marini writes “a yes vote will protect democracy’s greatest gift --the right to vote, by reserving it for the law-abiding.”

Marini and other supporters point out that the basic purpose of incarceration is to deprive convicts of control over their own lives, whereas the present law allows them to continue exercising control over the lives of their fellow citizens.

The Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, standing in opposition to Question 2, cites the impairment of democracy and the narrowing of fundamental rights as reasons to vote against the question. The coalition argues that there has been no allegations of prisoner voting as being harmful to the social fabric or democratic process. Its written argument states that “stripping incarcerated felons of their right to vote serves no public safety function.”