Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang says incarcerated people should have the right to vote, just not murderers

Samantha Lee
  • Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said during an INSIDER town hall on Tuesday that he supports all incarcerated people, except murderers, being able to vote.
  • The idea that ex-convicts and the incarcerated should have the right to vote has emerged as the latest policy debate among 2020 Democrats.
  • “I think that committing a crime should not mean you are a non-citizen and cannot vote, so the threshold I have come up with is that if you have deprived someone else of their right to vote, then you should not have the right to vote,” Yang said.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said on Tuesday that he believes all ex-convicts and incarcerated people, except murderers, should have the right to vote.

“I think that committing a crime should not mean you are a non-citizen and cannot vote, so the threshold I have come up with is that if you have deprived someone else of their right to vote, then you should not have the right to vote,” Yang said during an INSIDER town hall.

The idea that ex-convicts and the incarcerated should have the right to vote has emerged as the latest policy debate among 2020 Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders believes that all prisoners, regardless of their crimes, should be allowed to vote, and he also supports enfranchising people who are currently incarcerated.

Other candidates have taken varied stances on whether prisoners should be able to vote: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is against voting rights for people who are currently incarcerated; Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have said they are open to further conversations about giving inmates the right to vote; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro are open to enfranchising nonviolent offenders; and Sen. Cory Booker has proposed a Voting Rights Act that would restore voting rights to people returning from incarceration.

In an interview with PBS Newshour on Monday, Booker described the debate over restoring voting rights to currently incarcerated felons as “frustrating.”

“If Bernie Sanders wants to get involved in a conversation about whether Dylann Roof and the [Boston] Marathon bomber should have the right to vote, my focus is liberating black and brown people and low-income people from prison,” Booker said. “My focus is tearing down the system of mass incarceration, so that we don’t even have to have the debate about people’s voting rights, because they’re not going to prison in the first place.”

Around six million Americans are barred from voting because they convicted a felony, and one in every 13 African-Americans have lost their voting rights due to felony disenfranchisement, according to The Sentencing Project.

An INSIDER poll conducted in April found that the majority of Americans do not agree with Sanders that all prisoners should have voting rights, but many are receptive to the idea of giving non-violent inmates the right to vote.

Yang’s views align with almost all the Democratic candidates who say they support restoring voting rights to felons after they are released from prison.

“People should have the right to vote because presumably they are going to come out of jail and rejoin society, and studies have shown that if you vote and you’re formerly an incarcerated citizen, you’re actually less likely to commit a crime and go back to jail,” Yang said on Tuesday. “So, if that’s the case, we should be applauding anyone who votes because it means that they feel that they are apart of society and will be less likely to go back to jail when they’re out.”

Watch the full town hall here.

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