(CNSNews.com) - At a CNN town hall Monday night, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said convicted felons such as the Boston Marathon bomber should not be allowed to vote while incarcerated.
But he favors restoration of voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences.
At an earlier CNN town hall on Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he's in favor of felons, including the Boston Marathon bomber, voting while serving their sentences. The surviving Boston Marathon terrorist was sentenced to death for killing three people, maiming 16 and injuring hundreds more runners and spectators.
Host Anderson Cooper asked Buttigieg, "Should people convicted of sexual assault, the Boston Marathon bomber -- should they be able to vote?"
“While incarcerated?” Buttigieg asked. "No," he said. "I don't think so."
The audience, mostly college students, applauded.
Buttigieg explained his position:
I do believe that when you are out, when you have served your sentence, then part of being restored to society is that you are part of the political life of this nation again, and one of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote.
As you know, some states and communities to do it. Some don't. I think we'd be a better country if everybody did it, and frankly, I think the motivations for preventing that kind of re-enfranchisement, in some cases, have to do with one side of the aisle noticing that they politically benefit from that, and that's got some racial layers to it.
So that's one of many reasons that I believe that re-enfranchisement on release is important. But part of the punishment when you were convicted of a crime and you're incarcerated is you lose certain rights. You lose your freedom, and I think during that period it does not make sense to have an exception for the right to vote.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), also participating in a CNN town hall earlier Monday night, dodged the question:
Host Don Lemon noted what Sanders had said -- that even "terrible people" such as the Boston Marathon bomber should be allowed to vote behind bars.
"Do you agree with that, Senator?" he asked Harris.
"I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship," Harris responded. "And it is something that people should not be stripped of needlessly, which is why I have been long an advocate of making sure that the formerly incarcerated are not denied a right to vote, which is the case in so many states in our country -- in some states, permanently deprived of the right to vote.
"And these are policies that go back to Jim Crow, these are policies that go back to the heart of policies that have been about disenfranchisement, policies that continue until today, and we need to take it seriously."
Lemon followed up: "But people who are in -- convicted, in prison, like the Boston Marathon bomber, on death row, people who are convicted of sexual assault, they should be able to vote?" he asked.
"I think we should have that conversation," Harris said.