A Romney-affiliated Super PAC is currently airing an attack ad in South Carolina which falsely suggests that Rick Santorum supports allowing felons in prison to vote. Tonight, Santorum confronted Romney about the ad, stating that his record and his view that felons who have served their time and completed their probation and parole should have their right to vote restored.
Santorum then pressed Romney whether he also believes people who have served their time should be allowed to vote, explaining the importance of the issue:
This is Martin Luther King day. This is a huge deal in the African American community because we have very high rates of incarceration, disproportionately higher rates particularly with drug crimes in the African American community. The bill I voted on is the Martin Luther King voting rights bill. And this was a provision that said — it particularly targeted African Americans. And I voted to allow them to have their voting rights back once they completed their sentence.
Romney tried to dodge the issue, finally stating, “I don’t think people who have committed violent crimes should be allowed to vote again.” Santorum pushed back, correctly noting that while Romney was governor of Massachusetts, the state employed a policy of allowing violent felons to vote not only after they completed their sentence but also while they were on probation.
Romney blamed the Democratic legislature in Massachusetts for the bill, and disowned any affiliation from the Super PAC running the attack ad (despite the fact that he’s raised money for the group). Watch the heated exchange:
“Voting is the foundation stone for political action,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr once said. “The basic elements so vital to Negro advancement can only be achieved by seeking redress from government at local, state and Federal levels. To do this the vote is essential.”
As ThinkProgress’ Marie Diamond previously reported, “Hispanic and black communities are disproportionately effected by these laws, with 13 percent of adult black men barred from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Denying former felons the vote can also hold back their successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”