Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, the House passed House Bill 1078 that would allow convicted felons to automatically regain their ability to vote before they have completed their full sentences. I strongly oppose this policy.
Here is the speech I gave during debate:
For a lot of my colleagues, it sounds like this is a tough vote. It's not a tough vote for me. Like my friend from the 26th District, I strongly believe in redemption and pathways to redemption. The fact that the good lady from the 23rd District is here in this chamber today is clear evidence that those pathways exist under current law. In addition to pathways to redemption, I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in accountability. And I believe in consequences for your actions. We've talked about rights, we've talked about entitlements, we've talked about things that people should get in this state, even if they've committed crimes that violate our social contract — the fabric of what keeps us safe, secure, and united as a state.
Voting is a privilege to me. It's a privilege that service members, for hundreds of years, have died for to ensure that it was captured by all people equally. When the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution were passed, that was the first mention in the Constitution of a right to vote, because voting is a privilege. And the only thing that the Constitution says is that the right to vote must be given equally to all, regardless of race. And, thankfully, that was also expanded to include gender. It's very important to me that — as this state continues its slow and now increasingly quick — walk to decriminalization, that we do not give in under this bill.
This bill is a step in the wrong direction, especially in a state where storefronts are vandalized with impunity, where American flags are burned without consequence, and where our neighbors are concerned about their livelihoods because they can no longer operate in their stores and can no longer contact the police because the station has been taken over by rioters and sealed off from the public and from the officers themselves.
We are at a very serious moment in our state's history, and I ask that we do not continue this march toward decriminalization and the removal of consequences from people who have committed actions that we as a society and as a state have agreed are not appropriate and must be punished with the removal of certain rights and privileges, among them the ability to vote. That privilege can be restored once a person has repaid their debt to society, has repaid their debt to our state. That's appropriate, because redemption is appropriate and should be open to all. But this bill doesn't help with that pathway that already exists. This bill strips away consequences from people who need to pay them. Please vote no.
I welcome your emails, calls, and letters. It is an honor to serve you.