One of the issues dividing Democrats from Republicans is the question of whether former felons should ever lose their voting rights, or get them back once they have served their time.
Republicans regularly oppose this. It’s one way of holding down voting by demographic groups such as African-Americans who are disproportionately savaged by the criminal justice system—voters who might support Democrats.
Currently, there are 13 states, all of them in the Deep South or heavily Republican areas of the Midwest, where former felons never regain civil rights. At the other end of the spectrum are Maine and Vermont, where convicts retain their voting rights even while in prison. In between are states where you can regain your right to vote after completing your sentence.
Given the partisan polarization on this issue, it is charming to see Republican ex-cons not just regaining their voting rights, but running for office. Exhibit A is the former representative from Staten Island, New York, Michael Grimm.
He served seven months in the slammer for tax fraud. The actual charges involved hiring undocumented workers, underpaying them off the books, and then lying to investigators. In a fitting contrast, Dan Donovan, the incumbent representative, is a former district attorney.
Grimm is a perfect poster child for the Trump-era Republican Party, though maybe not for re-enfranchising former felons.
It gets even more bizarre in the case of Don Blankenship, the former coal company executive who went to prison for his role in mine conditions that killed 29 workers in 2010. He actually thought citizens would view him as a savory candidate.
Blankenship managed to badly lose the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Now he is threatening to do to the Republican Party what he did to local miners.
Given the wave of new indictments and convictions coming down the pike, maybe we can expect more Republican support for the rights of former felons. Even thugs like these guys deserve to get their civil rights back. They just don’t deserve to be elected to office.