Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ argument that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and other violent criminals should be allowed to vote from prison, goes “a little bit too far.”
“Democrats have come up with a lot of very radical ideas recently,” said Gardner on “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
“They want to eliminate the Electoral College, pack the Supreme Court, universal healthcare but this prison precinct plan is going a little bit too far.”
Gardner, who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, added: “They want to restore voting rights? How about the 160 lives that were lost by Terry Nichols. I’m sure they wish their lives were restored but we’re going to give them the right to vote as felons behind bars in the most extreme security prison in this country?”
Nichols is serving life in prison for his role in helping Timothy McVeigh carry out the April 19, 1995 bombing that killed 168 people. Nichols is being held at the highest-level security prison in the Bureau of Prisons system, located at Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colo. McVeigh was convicted and executed.
During a CNN town hall last Monday, a Harvard student asked Sanders if his position on expanding voting rights to felons in prison would support “enfranchising people” like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as well as those “convicted of sexual assault,” whose votes could have a “direct impact on women’s rights.”
Sanders first responded by saying he wanted a “vibrant democracy” with “higher voter turnout” and blasted “cowardly Republican governors” who he said were “trying to suppress the vote.”
The Vermont senator then argued that the Constitution says “everybody can vote” and that “some people in jail can vote.”
“But, I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy," Sanders said. "Yes, even for terrible people.”
A number of lawmakers are now pushing back on that promise. On Tuesday, a day after Sanders declared his position on the voting rights of those convicted of sexual assault and crimes like terrorism, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., backtracked on her stance after initially saying “we should have that conversation” about allowing criminals currently in prison to vote.
She made the initial comment on a televised town hall event last Monday. The next day, while speaking to a press gaggle in New Hampshire, Harris said, “Do I think that people who commit murder, people who are terrorists should be deprived of their rights? Yeah, I do. I’m a prosecutor.
She added: “There has to be serious consequences for the most extreme types of crimes.”
When asked to weigh in on the fact that in Maine it’s legal for felons behind bars to vote Gardner said: “They can do what they want but don't mess with Colorado. We have a system right now that Colorado likes. It's balanced. It's what we have been used to.”
He added, “I think we all learned as elementary kids or high school kids in our civics class that if you are in prison for a felony, particularly a felony for terrorism, that you don’t vote.”
Gardner called Sanders' push for felon voting rights "alarming" adding, “I think it makes the American people realize how far they (Democrats) are willing to go, how extreme they are.”