How Americans, and Dem candidates, feel about letting felons vote

As of now, at least, full re-enfranchisement doesn’t seem like a winning issue for Democrats. For example, President Trump’s re-election campaign attacked Sanders for his stance in the days after the town hall, calling it “deeply offensive” and pointing out it would allow domestic terrorists like the surviving Boston Marathon bomber to vote. Even among Democrats, the idea is controversial. The HuffPost/YouGov poll found that Democrats opposed Sanders’s position 46 percent to 38 percent; Quinnipiac found that Democratic voters were about evenly divided on the issue. Bills to eliminate felony disenfranchisement failed to pass the legislature this year in both New Mexico and Hawaii, where Democrats have full control of state government. And no other Democratic presidential candidate has yet joined Sanders in calling for all prisoners to be allowed to vote.

But the public is more likely to support restoring the right to vote for felons who have been released from prison, even if they are on probation or parole — 38 percent of adults supported the idea in the HuffPost/YouGov poll, while 44 percent were opposed. According to that Sentencing Project study, if a measure like that had passed in 2016, it would have restored the right to vote to all but 1.4 million of the people who were disenfranchised at the time.

Although the public at large is narrowly opposed to letting people on probation or parole vote, the HuffPost/YouGov poll did indicate that the idea was a fairly mainstream position among Democrats (who supported it 58 percent to 30 percent).