Sen. Bernard Sanders on Monday said he wanted prison inmates to vote in elections, including convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people,” Mr. Sanders said at a town hall-style forum hosted by CNN in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Mr. Sanders said he took that position despite knowing it could be turned against him by his rivals in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Restricting voting rights, even for a convicted murderer and terrorist such as Tsarnaev, he said would be a “slippery slope” toward undermining American democracy.

Tsarnaev was convicted of the al Qaeda-inspired bomb attack on the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded 260 others.

Mr. Sanders said restricting voting rights was the type of policy currently pursued by “cowardly Republican governors” seeking to suppress the vote.

Mr. Sanders, an icon of the far left who calls himself a democratic socialist, is a frontrunner in the Democratic race.

He said there were other punishments for criminals that did not include disenfranchisement.

“If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they are going to be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That’s what happens when you commit a serious crime,” he said. “But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away, and you say, ‘That guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote’ … you are running down a slippery slope.”

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