Campaigning in Iowa on Saturday, 2020 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders said he thinks that convicted felons should be allowed to vote from behind bars.
Sanders represents Vermont in the Senate, one of only two states that allow felons to vote from prison currently. At a town hall meeting on Saturday, he was asked whether it should be a nationwide law.
“I think that is absolutely the direction we should go,” he said.
It is a pertinent topic in Iowa, which is considering opening up voting to convicted felons who have served their time and are no longer in prison. Sanders doesn’t think that goes far enough.
“In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail,” said Sanders, according to the Des Moines Register. “But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”
Thirteen states and Washington, D.C. currently specifically prohibit felons from voting only while incarcerated. Thirty states restore voting rights to felons after all time, including probation, has been served. That thirty includes Florida, which only made the change after the 2018 midterms.
In Iowa, voting rights are not currently restored automatically. Along with Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia, and Wyoming, it requires a special request to regain the right to cast a ballot, usually requiring a gubernatorial authorization.
It is usually considered a cause among Democrats and not among Republicans, though the added aspect of voting from within prison is likely Sanders way of stepping out of the pack in the 2020 field.