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Should Felons be Allowed to Vote? Essay

There has been a recent spate of major works on the entire question of “felony disenfranchisement.” This means that for those who have been convicted for a major crime, they may not vote in federal elections for the remainder of their lives. While these laws are actually state laws, 48 American states disenfranchise voters (Fellner, 1998). The debate is over the fact that since many of these felons are from democratic constituencies, they are racial minorities and from thje poor, these felon disenfranchisement laws unjustly hurt Democratic electoral chances and hurt American democracy. This paper takes issue with this, and holds that Democrats simply want more voters, and will get them any way possible.

The argument against felons voting is as simple as the one in favor. Felons, no matter their racial or class background (and there are plenty of wealthy felons), have violated the basic trust necessary to a democratic society. Trust among citizens is essential for a smoothly running society. For those who have committed major crimes, the issue is that they take away from this trust, and that they have violated the contract that must exist among citizens (Harvey, 1994). Hence, they are un trustworthy in democratic elections, since the common good is not part of their make up.

The reaction to this is that, while many agree that prisoners should not vote, what of those who have already served their time? This has been a major issue in recent years, and the (2002) paper by Uggen is substantially important in this development and argument. The authors are clearly Democratic partisans and are worried about the issues of disenfranchisement in benefitting Republican voters.

They claim that, for example, in the Kentucky Senate election of 1984, the republican, Mitch McConnell won a narrow margin of victory that would have been thrown to his Democratic opponent had felons been allowed to vote, including those in parole and those that have long served their time. Similarly, they are convinced that Nixon’s first win over Humphrey would also have been reversed quite possibly if felons had been allowed to vote. At the same time, more recently, they mention that an additional 80,000 voters for Gore would have turned out, possibly reversing the Florida win for George Bush in 2000. (Uggen, 2002, 781ff).

In other words, since democrats have been hurt by this policy, the policy should be revered. They do not exactly say this, but it is clear that the academic audience for this paper in a major academic journal would clearly support Democratic candidates, and hence be “outraged” by ths injustice.

There is another angle that the present literature has not dealt with: that of illegal immigration. Most authors hold that illegal immigrants, if they were cleared of their federal crimes of illegal immigration, would vote for Democratic candidates. IN this case, since there are millions of illegal immigrants and those dependent upon them in America, the fact is that if they were amnestied and their felonies thrown out and cancelled, it is hard to imagine how Republicans could survive as a major party in areas where immigrants from Central and South America were in large minorities such as Texas or Arizona.

The point is that the above argument could easily be applied to illegal immigrants and hence, could alter the political landscape permanently in America. Hence, the rhetoric about endangering democracy is largely fraudulent, since the illegal immigrant argument would merely be a plea for mobilizing millions of semi-literate immigrants from the third world to herd to the polls to vote for the pre-approved Democratic candidate. Hence, the fraud in on the other side.

The authors of the major studies mentioned in this paper’s bibliography all seem to hold that the basic idea of felony disenfranchisement hurts the Democratic party and their main constituents, and hence should  be repealed. The problem is that these authors are forced to admit that most felons would vote for Democrats. The reality is that regardless of the class or racial background of most felons, their vote would be the gift of Democratic party agitators and hence, would guarantee more Democratic votes. This is a vulgar attempt to alter American politics to suit liberal interests.


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