Expressing his opposition to legislation introduced by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) that would require states to restore voting rights to all convicted felons who have completed their sentences, syndicated Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer falsely claimed that "only a third of states now allow felons to vote." In fact, 36 states -- more than two-thirds -- and the District of Columbia currently allow individuals who have been convicted of a felony and have completed their prison sentences, probation, and parole to vote.
Krauthammer's criticism followed a video clip of Clinton introducing the Count Every Vote Act of 2005, which includes the voting rights provision, on the Senate floor on February 17.
From the March 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
CLINTON [video clip]: These people should be given the right to register to vote. An estimated 4.7 million Americans are not eligible to vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement laws.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, first of all, it's incredibly hypocritical. The Democrats are arguing that states ought to decide things like gay rights and not the federal government. And here they want the states imposing the rule on the felons, where only a third of states now allow felons to vote.
In fact, only 14 states currently have laws preventing convicted felons who have completed their sentences from voting, according to a January 2005 study by The Sentencing Project, a research institute that studies criminal justice. Of those 14, six permanently deny voting rights to convicted felons, while eight have specific laws that extend the denial of voting rights beyond the end of parole or probation for certain finite periods or for particular offenses.
Clinton's bill would allow convicted felons to vote only if they are no longer on probation or parole, or currently serving a prison sentence [section 701(d)], a standard already matched by the 36 states noted earlier and the District of Columbia. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) have co-sponsored the bill.