A jury of your peers?

If you do the crime and are still doing the time, then you might just be a registered voter.

Something has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks. It was called to my attention that one of my neighbors, who is a convicted child molester and on parole for at least the next eight years or so, is a registered voter here in Jefferson County, Texas. I looked up the voter registration list online and sure enough, my child-molesting neighbor on parole is a registered voter.

I didn’t think people who were on parole could vote. The Texas Election Code states that a qualified voter is someone who:

(1) is 18 years of age or older;
(2) is a United States citizen;
(3) has not been determined mentally incompetent by a
final judgment of a court;
(4) has not been finally convicted of a felony or, if
so convicted, has:
(A) fully discharged the person’s sentence,
including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or
completed a period of probation ordered by any court;
(B) been pardoned or otherwise released from the
resulting disability to vote;
(5) is a resident of this state; and
(6) is a registered voter.

A week or so ago I called the local state parole office and asked if they knew why someone on parole could be registered to vote. The parole officer they gave me said she really didn’t know but thought after being on parole for a certain time that a parolee could vote. But she wasn’t sure.

Today I called the local voter registration office here in Beaumont. The person I talked with told me that, sure enough, if someone has yet to be discharged from parole then they can’t register to vote.

“But I can’t remove him from the rolls just on your word,” this person added.

Well, that’s fine with me because I was not the one who allowed him to register in the first place.

I don’t know how you feel about voting rights for convicted felons. If we really believe that these people “pay their debt to society” in prison and subsequently on parole then perhaps the right to vote is something society is should allow for the supposed redemption of the offender. But I do have problems with those felons who are on parole being registered to vote.

First of all, they are technically still serving their sentence. And, along with a driver license, the voter registration rolls are used for jury lists in the county. Perhaps the state has some failsafe method to keep paroled felons off juries such as doing a criminal records check on each potential juror. I don’t know if they do that or not. It would be interesting to find out. If a parolee landed on a jury by lying, let’s say for child molestation, that really would in the sickest sense of the word mean the defendant had a jury of his peers. At least one juror. And you’ve all seen enough “Perry Mason” and “Law and Order” to know one juror is all you need for reasonable doubt. It’s something to think about.

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