New York Daily News

February 13, 2005

Point/Counterpoint

Should N.Y. felons vote? No

By Patrick J. Lynch

We have a deal. Obey the laws of the land and enjoy the rights of a free person.

Disobey them and forfeit those rights. This is as it should be.

The law banning convicted felons from voting while incarcerated or on parole should be left standing. The reason is simple. You don't deserve to enjoy individual rights if you deny them to others. It is part of the social contract between citizens and government that exists to keep society safe and orderly.

A convicted felon has broken that social contract and denied someone else's rights in the process. The penalty is prison, where rights - including the right to vote - are appropriately restricted, not only in New York, but in 47 other states.

On another level, the right to vote gives us the ability to choose the people who make the laws under which we live. If you have broken those laws, then you shouldn't have the right to participate in selecting lawmakers.

Last week a lawsuit was initiated on behalf of cop killer Anthony Bottom, who is seeking to regain his right to vote while incarcerated. This is the case that brought the debate to our attention.

In 1971, Bottom, a member of the Black Liberation Army, along with his band of cowardly assassins, snuck up behind New York City Police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones and shot the cops in the back.

Mercifully, Officer Jones suffered a quick death, but Piagentini was only wounded. Bottom took the officer's service revolver and, as Piagentini lay bleeding on the ground pleading for his life to be spared for the sake of his two baby daughters, Bottom emptied the gun into him.

In killing two brave New York City police officers, he denied them their right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." He killed their opinions and he killed their votes. Anthony Bottom has voted with bullets and doesn't deserve to vote again.

It's a simple deal that makes sense and works. Obey the law and enjoy the rights this great country grants us. Break the law and the deal is off.

This is as it should be.