Lawmakers debate bill that would give prisoners voting rights

Lawmakers debate bill that would give prisoners voting rights
Published: Feb. 23, 2016 at 11:40 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2016 at 3:49 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii lawmakers are expected to make a decision on House Bill 2773 on Thursday.  The bill would allow prisoners to retain their right to vote, even while incarcerated.

Representative Kaniela Ing introduced the bill.  He says denying convicts voting rights undermines democratic ideals.  Ing believes the process helps inmates learn about the system and helps them feel like they are part of the process and not against it.

"Feel like they're part of the system and they can help create it and shape it," says Ing.

But critics say convicted criminals have many constitutional rights taken away while they're serving time, and this one shouldn't be an exception.

"You're punished.  You forfeit those rights," says Representative Bob McDermott, "It's a foolish idea and it won't pass. It will embarrass members in an election year."

If the bill passes, Hawaii would be only the third state to extend the right to vote to prisoners.  Maine and Vermont are the other two.

House Bill 2773 is currently in the Judiciary committee.  Members discussed it last Friday and then deferred to this Thursday.

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