George Will at NRO would like for ex-felons to vote. It is not a terribly important issue but we tend to agree with him. We would want to discuss exactly when the felon becomes ex. That is, it is release from prison or some time later. We don’t see why murder or sexual offenses should be excluded as they are in the Florida ballot initiative. As always, ballot initiatives are a bad idea. In a few cases, but not this one, they are the least bad idea available. We think, however, that one of his points is poorly taken. George says:
Recidivism among Florida’s released felons has been approximately 30 percent for the five years 2011–2015. Of the 1,952 persons whose civil rights were restored, five committed new offenses, a recidivism rate of 0.4 percent. This sample is skewed by self-selection — over-representation of those who had the financial resources and tenacity to navigate the complex restoration process that each year serves a few hundred of the 1.6 million. Still, the recidivism numbers are suggestive.
We were surprised at the high number of new offenses, five, for the folks that had done all that work. We don’t find the number suggestive of anything but a signal resources by 1,952 folks.
It would be a useful thing to have legislative hearings in the 36 states that do not re-enfranchise felons. There are issues to work out like timing and potential exceptions. The legislature should do it rather than the courts or a ballot initiative. We should do it through the normal processes.