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Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday became the first 2020 presidential candidate to speak out in support of allowing Americans to vote from behind bars.

During a campaign stop in Iowa, the Independent senator from Vermont was asked about his position on imprisoned people participating in political elections.

“I think that is absolutely the direction we should go,” Sanders said at a town hall in Muscatine, Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register, a local newspaper.

Several states disenfranchise citizens convicted of felonies—though some states, such as Florida, have been pressured to change their laws to allow people who have served their sentences to vote. Currently, only Maine and Vermont let felons retain their voting rights while incarcerated, which the senator noted on Saturday.

“In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That’s bad,” Sanders said. “But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”

His position was celebrated by advocates for criminal justice reform, including Shaun King, a longtime supporter who spoke at the candidate’s 2020 launch rally in Brooklyn:

The senator’s comments came after GOP lawmakers in the Iowa Senate this week effectively killed a state constitutional amendment proposed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to restore ex-felons’ right to vote.

Sanders, on Friday, called the development “a disappointing setback” but vowed to keep fighting to strengthen voting rights. At the time, he said that felons should “regain their constitutional rights after they have paid their debt to society.”

Sanders is the fundraising frontrunner in a crowded field of political figures seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president—and, so far, the only one to say he supports enabling people to vote while they are in prison.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another 2020 contender, was asked her position on the issue at a candidate forum—which Sanders did not attend—hosted by HuffPost and the Open Markets Institute last weekend.

“Once someone pays their debt to society, they’re out there expected to pay taxes, expected to abide by the law, they’re expected to support themselves and their families,” Warren said. “I think that means they’ve got a right to vote.”

But she stopped short of calling for imprisoned citizens to cast ballots in elections, adding, “While they’re incarcerated, I think that’s something we can have more conversation about.”

Warren was among the 2020 presidential hopefuls who also traveled to key primary states this weekend to meet with voters. Warren went to Nevada. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, both visited New Hampshire. And former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, like Sanders, was in Iowa.

Citations

[1]'Absolutely the Direction We Should Go': Sanders Becomes First 2020 Candidate to Support Felons Voting From Behind Bars | Common Dreams News .... https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/04/07/absolutely-direction-we-should-go-sanders-becomes-first-2020-candidate-support?cd-origin=rss[2]Election 2020: In Iowa, Bernie Sanders says states should allow felons to vote from behind bars .... https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2019/04/06/bernie-sanders-says-states-should-felon-voting-rights-election-2020-iowa-caucus/3388679002/[3]'Historic Moment': After Ballot Measure Victory Repeals Jim Crow Law, Voting Rights Restored for 1.4M Ex-Felons in Florida | Common Dreams News .... https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/01/08/historic-moment-after-ballot-measure-victory-repeals-jim-crow-law-voting-rights[4] .... http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/felon-voting-rights.aspx[5]'I Know Where I Came From': At First 2020 Rally, Sanders Shares How Childhood in Brooklyn Shaped His Drive for Political Revolution | Common Dreams News .... https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/03/02/i-know-where-i-came-first-2020-rally-sanders-shares-how-childhood-brooklyn-shaped[6]Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) | Twitter .... https://twitter.com/BernieSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[7]Election 2020: In Iowa, Bernie Sanders says states should allow felons to vote from behind bars .... https://t.co/j5Lkzqbx4n[8]Shaun King on Twitter: "Today @BernieSanders became the first presidential candidate to say that EVERY American, including ALL people in prison or out of prison deserve the right to vote. I agree. And if you didn’t already know this, his home state of Vermont already allows it https://t.co/j5Lkzqbx4n" .... https://twitter.com/shaunking/status/1114740109650354176?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[9]Election 2020: In Iowa, Bernie Sanders says states should allow felons to vote from behind bars .... https://t.co/6sF9jbuvDX[10]Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) | Twitter .... https://twitter.com/DMRegister?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[11]Chase Madar on Twitter: "In Iowa, Bernie Sanders says states should allow felons to vote from behind bars (and he’s absolutely fucking right) https://t.co/6sF9jbuvDX via @DMRegister" .... https://twitter.com/ChaseMadar/status/1114677773916934146?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[12]Rally in Davenport with Bernie Sanders | Friends of Bernie Sanders .... https://t.co/cYcvJnAxWm[13]Kira Lerner on Twitter: "New: The Iowa Senate will not advance a proposal to amend the state's constitution to restore voting rights for former felons, dealing a blow to one of Gov. Kim Reynolds' top legislative priorities https://t.co/9NK14eSeit" .... https://t.co/8iMCiCu15T[14]Bernie Sanders on Twitter: "This is a disappointing setback for voting rights in Iowa. We must continue fighting for all felons to regain their constitutional rights after they have paid their debt to society. Join me in Davenport tonight as we build our movement based on justice: https://t.co/cYcvJnAxWm… https://t.co/EZ3wY2M5z2" .... https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/1114275856711659520?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[15]Sanders Brings in $18+ Million in First Quarter With Nearly 900,000 Donations Averaging $20 | Common Dreams News .... https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/04/02/sanders-brings-18-million-first-quarter-nearly-900000-donations-averaging-20[16]Amanda Terkel on Twitter: ".@SenSanders comes out and says people shouldn’t lose their voting rights in prison — they should still vote behind bars. I asked Warren this last week and she didn’t yet have a position on it https://t.co/MZbe0tS2EV" .... https://twitter.com/aterkel/status/1114681064033792000[17]HuffPost + Open Markets Heartland Forum - YouTube .... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3vNcqe6yLE[18]Elizabeth Warren Won’t Say If She Supports Voting Rights For Incarcerated Felons | HuffPost .... https://www.huffpost.com/entry/elizabeth-warren-felon-voting-rights-prison_n_5c9e2bd9e4b0474c08cd6563[19]Elizabeth Warren on Twitter: "I spent the day in Reno talking with Nevadans who want to see big, structural change in our country—like #MedicareForAll, 3.2 million new housing units, and a #GreenNewDeal.… https://t.co/YgKsPnzpq2" .... https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1114669967742468096[20]Cory Booker on Twitter: "Bedford, NH brought the energy this morning! Great way to start the day discussing baby bonds, my solution to addressing our growing wealth gap and a way to ensure that all children born in America can achieve upward mobility.… https://t.co/TJ1QnLbnKy" .... https://twitter.com/CoryBooker/status/1114902834292711429[21]Pete Buttigieg on Twitter: "Loved meeting so many great people at @GibsonsConcord. Thanks for joining us today and see you again soon!… " .... https://twitter.com/PeteButtigieg/status/1114590180139327488[22]Beto O'Rourke on Twitter: "Closing out an unforgettable Saturday across the Des Moines area with our sixth neighborhood house party. Grateful for the opportunity to spend today with so many amazing people, to answer questions, hear ideas, learn from one another, and commit to doing all of this together.… https://t.co/7uvpR0CYiB" .... https://twitter.com/BetoORourke/status/1114707217389948929[23]'Absolutely the Direction We Should Go': Sanders Becomes First 2020 Candidate to Support Felons Voting From Behind Bars | Common Dreams News .... https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/04/07/absolutely-direction-we-should-go-sanders-becomes-first-2020-candidate-support?cd-origin=rss