EDITORIAL: Let voters decide on ex-felons

If voters don't want convicted politicians to represent them, they can say so themselves.

Nobody should want to vote for a former politician who’s been convicted on felonies related to their public positions.

Fool me once, and all that.

But a well-intentioned bill being proposed by a Long Island state senator to restrict access to public office for certain convicted public officials would take the decision-making out of the voters’ hands and could quite possibly violate the candidate’s constitutional rights.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky is proposing a bill (S0090A) that would prohibit individuals from holding public office or positions of political party leadership for a period of 10 years if they’ve been convicted of certain felonies. The bill also would prohibit such an individual from joining a political committee for five years upon the completion of any criminal sentence.

Among the many convictions that would fall under this bill are defrauding the government, criminal mischief, tampering with public records, grand larceny, forgery, bribery giving, receiving unlawful gratuities, corrupt use of public office, perjury and hindering prosecution.

The legislation is in response to the candidacy of former Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who is running for his former seat next year after being convicted in 2014 of taking bribes from developers.

The bill raises some issues.

First off, assuming he’s completed his sentence and had his voting rights restored, why should a former public official be ineligible for running for office when other convicted criminals who’ve completed their sentences would not be? 

Convicted felons are eligible to run for office in New York. So a corrupt businessman could run, but not a corrupt politician? Setting up a separate standard could subject the state to charges of discrimination.

Also, why a 10-year ban? If the assumption is that a politician who has been convicted and served his time can’t be trusted to hold office for 10 years, then why let them run for office again at all?

Or on the other side, if convicted politicians can be rehabilitated, why make them wait 10 years to prove it?

Finally, we’re not sure how the state would get away with prohibiting someone from serving a leadership role in a political party or joining a political committee, given that party positions aren’t government posts. Membership decisions should be up to the parties themselves.

As Kaminsky told The Post, “With 125,000 people in the district, we can find someone who is not a criminal to represent them.” And that’s exactly the point.

If the parties can’t find someone better to run, then they’ll find out at the polls. 

And if voters decide to put a convicted former official back in office, then they’ll have to live with the consequences.

The citizens have the right to elect their representatives.

Let them keep it. 

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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