The Republican National Committee (RNC) came down hard on Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after he claimed he would back expanding voting rights to felons — even those still in prison — if he were to become president in 2020.
During a campaign event in Iowa on Saturday, an event attendee asked Sanders about some legislation moving through the state to return the voting rights of felons after they have served their sentence. Although the bill had the backing of Governor Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), it failed to gain traction in the legislature.
When asked about his thoughts on similar legislation, Sanders announced that he not only supports the proposal, but he would take it one step further and ensure felon voting rights even while they are still serving their sentence.
“I think that is absolutely the direction we should go. In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That’s bad. But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”
As Sanders noted, Vermont joined Maine as one of two states to allow felons to cast their ballots from behind bars.
Although President Donald Trump has been working with federal prisons on other reforms, including the First Step Act, the RNC made it clear they are not on board with expanding voting rights behind bars.
In a statement to Fox News, RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt called out Sanders for backing the policy, claiming it was an attempt to change the election rules to benefit Democrats.
“From suggesting that illegal immigrants should be able to vote, to trying to lower the voting age to 16, to now proposing convicted felons behind bars should be able to vote, Democrats are once again trying to rewrite the rules for their own political agenda. When they can’t win at the ballot box, Democrats instead try to rig the system in their favor.”
As Merritt noted, some Democrats have pushed drastic changes to the electoral system in the United States. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced support for lowering the voting age to 16, House Democrats voted to defend decisions by local government to allow non-citizen voters, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed getting rid of the electoral college — all of which would be major changes to the U.S. electoral process.