Given and Taken: The Right to Vote, A Solution in SB 11 for the Previously Convicted

The act of placing myself in the shoes of another, into the life of one who cannot vote, is a formidable task. I have always had the right to vote, ever since it was granted to me, so some imagination is needed to hold empathy for those in such a situation. The first time I ever took to the ballot box, I was filled with excitement that my beliefs could help shape the world that is here, into the one that is to come. I would call that the feeling of hope. In my own mind, the inability to vote would then be the inability to experience that unique experience, hope.

Rights and Privileges

There is one document from American history that many know merely from hearing it spoken – The Declaration of Independence. Within the confines of this declaration, humanity is mentioned to have rights which are specifically described as “inalienable.” A right, as described by the founding fathers, is impregnable and untouchable. A power which cannot be given or taken. Given that definition, voting cannot be be called a right as it currently stands. It would more so fit the definition of a privilege, being an allowed action which is given and can be taken.

Was the act of voting given to society or did society take it? It was through the means of great sacrifice that all who vote today are able to do so. It was taken, by those who had a right to it, from those who chose to withhold it. It would seem that such a process can also unfold in the reverse, because it has previously been regarded as a right. Even though it is now being treated by the state of Georgia and many others as a privilege, voting is specifically addressed as a right in the fifteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. In my eyes, this situation requires action. Right now that action is in the form of SB 11, the full amendment can be found at this link.

Proposed Amendment of Senate Bill 11, Part 1, Section(b)(1):

‘Code Section 21-2-216 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to to the qualifications of electors generally… is amended by revising subsection (b) as follows:
“(b)(1) As used in this subsection, the term ‘felony involving moral turpitude’ shall not include any offense resulting from a violation of subsection (a) of this code section of Code Section 16-13-30.

The above proposed amendment would remove “convictions for offenses involving the purchase, possession, or control of certain controlled substances,” as defined in the Georgia Code section 16-13-30, from the list of offences which would currently exclude citizens from being qualified to vote. This is a list of actions deemed unlawful through “moral turpitude,” or in other words, moral wickedness. The topic of moral wickedness being subjective in nature is beside the point, but nonetheless should be noted. In the United States, we often allow such matters of subjectivity to trump inalienable rights. Thus, the paramount necessity of any free society is being stripped every day from citizens. If voting were truly and undeniably a right instead of a privilege, then how is that right able to be taken away?

Libertarians, just as our founding fathers, take issue with the right to vote being treated as a privilege and something that can be denied. Libertarians also take issue with the overreach of executive and legislative authority, as well as, with the punishment of citizens, under the pretense of subjective laws, who live peacefully. As a libertarian, I support SB 11 in Georgia because I recognize it for what it is, a step in the right direction, It is a bill that fortifies voting as an inalienable right and not a privilege.

Bills other than SB 11 need support in Georgia, one of which is closely related, SB 10. A link to SB 10 can be found here and pertains to the punishment of non-violent state citizens under subjective pretense. Please contact your legislative representative and encourage them to support these Senate bills and the proposed changes. To find out who your representatives are visit this website.