Nice piece by colleague Patrick Appel on a rule I've never quite understood:
citizens should be denied basic rights only when a clear threat is posed to the public good -- not simply for reasons of political calculus. In recognition of that, even some Republican governors have relaxed disenfranchisement laws in their states, as Bobby Jindal and Charlie Crist have done in Louisiana and Florida, and as George W. Bush did in the 1990s in Texas.
Crime costs this country an estimated $1.4 trillion annually. Unless disenfranchisement helps reduce that number -- and the evidence suggests that it does the opposite -- then denying prisoners the vote in order to minutely heighten the virtue of the voting pool is a bad trade.
I actually understand private enterprise looking into criminal records, before they hire--the primary motive their is profit. It's not a logic I like. But it's a kind of logic. But for the public, disenfranchisimg felons really makes little sense. Either we want these people to be functioning parts of society, or we don't. Setting them free, and then barring them from the basic responsibilities of citizen life seems at odds.
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