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Felony Disenfranchisement in the United States

  • Date Submitted: 01/13/2013 09:39 PM
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Felony Disenfranchisement: A Stain on Democracy

Maggie Hall
POLS 413
Dr. Michael Murphy


      Fundamental to the democracy which the United States of America appears to pride itself on is the right to vote.  An engrained principle of democracy, enfranchisement- the admittance to citizenship particularly through voting- is permanently altered in some states.  Is a government truly democratic if it permanently disenfranchises its citizens?  Are those who are disenfranchised less ‘citizen-like’ because of their inability to cast a ballot?  In this essay, I will argue that felon disenfranchisement in the United States permanently alters the fundamental principles of citizenship.   I will first give a brief outline of the legalities of felony disenfranchisement.   Then, I will question its effects on citizenship, as well as what this means for the democratic standing of America.   I will discuss the moral issues associated with felony disenfranchisement, as well as race-based discrimination and finally discuss the opinions of those who support felony disenfranchisement. Through this essay I hope to adequately portray that felony disenfranchisement is an undemocratic stain on American society which affects citizenship and social standing of vulnerable members of society, as well as reflects poorly on American democracy as a whole.

       Felon disenfranchisement is the inability to vote after conviction of a felony occurring in certain states.  Although this seems contrary to anti-discrimination policies prevalent in the American Constitution, the American Supreme Court has established that disenfranchisement is only forbidden if based on “race, ethnicity, sex, failure to pay a poll tax, or age over eighteen.   They do not translate into a universal right to vote” (Raskin 2005: 12).   Disenfranchisement is traced back to medieval times when infamous criminals could suffer a...


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