FILE - In this April 15, 2019 photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes part in a Fox News town-hall style event in Bethlehem, Pa. Democratic presidential contenders are facing a new debate over whether criminals in prison -- even notorious ones like the Boston Marathon bomber -- should be able to win back their right to vote. Sanders says they should, calling voting “inherent to our democracy _ yes, even for terrible people.” Many of his 2020 Democratic presidential rivals aren’t so sure, and at least one opposes it outright. Sanders himself acknowledged that he was essentially writing an attack ad for Republicans to use against him through his support for the issue. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

2020 Democrats confronting debate over letting felons vote

April 24, 2019 - 12:13 pm

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is going further than even some advocates of a criminal justice overhaul have in calling for prisoners to have the right to vote.

Restoring voting rights to convicted felons released from prison has become a prime Democratic cause. Activists see restrictions on felony voting as a legacy of the post-Civil War era when states devised ways to keep blacks from voting.

But even those activists have hesitated to push the idea of extending the right to vote to those behind bars.

There's no hesitation, however, for Sanders.

During a CNN town hall on Monday, the Vermont senator called for just that. He even acknowledged it would inevitably become a Republican attack ad.

Some Sanders' rivals balk at going that far or oppose letting prisoners vote.