Josh "Penal" Penry: Felons vote the Democratic ticket

Yes, it's the season for blustery rhetoric and high-pressure posturing down at the statehouse.

But few stunts can match, for sheer unintended hilarity, this recent blast from Colorado Senate Republicans, denouncing a bill to restore voting rights to state parolees as a conspiracy by Dems to stuff the ballot boxes this fall.


Now, you could make a case for letting parolees vote as part of a general philosophy of re-integrating convicted felons into society. You could also make a pretty strong argument against it; in most states, the right to vote is one of those rights -- along with the right to a cell phone, porn and a Twitter account -- that are stripped when you are incarcerated, and not restored until you have completed all aspects of your sentence. Why? Because a criminal has forfeited certain freedoms and privileges through antisocial behavior, that's why.

The local GOP's argument is a bit different, though. No less an authority than Senate minority leader Josh "Penal" Penry has called Senate Bill 179, which seeks to restore the franchise to parolees, "the latest in a string of Democrat efforts to undermine the integrity of Colorado's election process."

Translation: Penry is concerned that all these thousands of parolees will be registering as Democrats as soon as they hit the halfway houses, voting out hardass judges and draconian DAs, and throwing the whole small-D democratic process into confusion by, well, exercising their right to vote. "No matter how extreme the proposal, Democrats are doing everything they can to improve their chances this November," he said.

Protests by Penry and other Senate Republicans failed to keep the bill, sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman (a Denver Democrat), from moving forward yesterday. But take heart, gentlemen. Surely the experience of the Big House has transformed scores of formally loose-living liberals into hardcore conservatives, eager to buy big cars and avoid paying taxes when they're released.

This could be an opportunity lurking in the wings.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast