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Sanders says felons should be able to vote from behind bars

While several of the dozen states with a lifetime ban on voting by felons are considering an easing of restrictions, Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to go one big step further: The Democratic presidential candidate says people convicted of felonies should never lose access to the ballot box, even while they're incarcerated.

That policy is now in place only in his home state of Vermont and neighboring Maine. Sanders said that if he becomes president he'd support nationalizing it. "In my state, what we do is separate. You're paying a price, you committed a crime, you're in jail. That's bad," he told an audience Saturday in Iowa. "But you're still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do."

No other presidential candidate has called for permitting all people behind bars to vote. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has called for the automatic restoration of the franchise to all felons after they're out of prison, which is the law in 14 states and Washington, D.C. In 22 states, felon voting rights are restored after completion of parole or probation.

Iowa, where the caucuses will kick off the presidential nominating process next winter, is one of a handful of states where felons can vote again only if they win permission from the governor. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds wants to make the restoration automatic, a proposal that was approved by the GOP-run state House but blocked last week by the GOP-majority state Senate.

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