Daniel Nichanian for the Appeal:
Hawley’s reaction reflects a system that has set them up as gatekeepers of voting rights, with the punitive expectation that effective law enforcement means cutting people off from the world.
But in Maine and Vermont, law enforcement’s decisions do not affect people’s voting rights, and that promotes a different dynamic. When I talked to the prosecutor of Vermont’s largest county in August about the fact that the state enables people to vote from prison, she expressed a very different sentiment than Hawley.
“I am very proud of Vermont for doing that, and I think every state should allow [incarcerated people] to vote,” Sarah Fair George, the state’s attorney of Chittenden County (Burlington), told me. She added that she wanted it to be easier still for incarcerated people to obtain ballots. “They are still a community member, and they should still have a say in the way their community is run, whether they’re in jail or not,” she said.
This week, after reading Hawley’s statement, I reached out to all the prosecutors in Maine and Vermont this week to ask for their reaction. I also contacted officials in each state’s Department of Corrections (DOC), the agencies that run state prisons.
Those who answered either defended prison voting as a boon to the criminal legal system, or shrugged it off as a non-issue. None expressed a sense of being disrespected.
“[F]elon voting in Vermont has been a rat