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100 Million US-Americans Don't Vote

While the American primaries make the headlines on a daily basis even in our Swiss newspapers, more than a hundred million Americans usually don't vote, which means about 40% of eligible voters forego their right to elect who's to become (arguably) the most powerful political leader in the world. Find an interesting "mini-movie" about these missing voters here.

This is what the filmmakers write about themselves:

A year before the presidential elections of 2008 a crew of young European filmmakers goes on a journey all across the country in a little old motorhome to search for America’s missing voters. Who are they? Why don’t they vote? Can a young and fresh presidential candidate as Barack Obama make them vote? How would American politics change if more young people, single women, poor white people, African-Americans and Latino’s would start voting?

"You usually end up with [a] disproportionate number of minorities not voting and more young voters not voting," according to Project Vote, a  not-for profit organization that tries to get more people to vote. Also featured in the movie: Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard professor and author of the book The Vanishing Voter (Amazon.com; Amazon.de). His conclusion is very clear:

If you enlarge[d] the electorate in the US, you'd be pushing it to the left.

Historically, only 10-20 % of all eligible voters take part in the primaries that are occupying so much of our attention at the moment. Oh, and by the way, guess which country besides the US has a very low turn-out on election day? Correct: it's  Switzerland.

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Joe Noory on :

The explanation I've heard and found plausible as it relates to this is that in the US and Switzerland, elections are so frequent that it causes a form of malaise. I also think that people in un-contentious districts vote less as well. On one hand you either believe your preferred candidate or your least favored candidate is a shoe-in, and see no need or use to vote. For example s Republican in Washington DC would be excused if he thought his vote futile.

Anonymous on :

If I understood correctly, the statistics concern national (US: presidential) elections. You are right for Switzerland though: some sort of voting takes place about four times a year, on average.

Sue on :

People vote when they feel that have something tangible to lose by not voting. Most young people (18-25)aren't responsible for anything/anybody and they don't pay many taxes, so they don't see the point of voting (unless they were raised by parents who consciously taught them to vote as an act of civic piety).

Zyme on :

I think at least in Germany there is a different reason for young people not voting as much as older ones: Taking a look at the dominant politicians when our parents were young themselves and comparing them to those dominant today makes one thing clear: Back then, politicians may have been as powerhungry and unprincipled as they are today, but having no personal agenda was certainly not displayed proudly to the people back then. Instead they used to be keen at being able to distinguish themselves from each other. They competed not only for positions, but also for ideas. Nowadays the latter has vanished completely. So while the older ones still may have some faith in the system, the younger ones (like me) never saw anything but completely removeable party-soldiers who stick to secretive leadership strategies rather than to their published agendas. Now one may accept this change as a constellation reflecting our rather authoritarian society in a whole. But certainly you can as well stop voting then, since you cannot predict in any way what kind of maneuver the party you voted for will participate in afterwards. Personally I have voted for two different parties in two general elections specifically for their strategies BEFORE the elections were over. After both have changed their path AFTERWARDS for 180 degrees, that´s it for me. If I wasn´t going to be employed by the state soon, I might like to see this system changed..

Joe Noory on :

By the by, there's also been record-settting [url=http://www.lefigaro.fr/elections-municipales-2008/2008/03/16/01019-20080316ARTFIG00016-municipales-les-francais-ont-commence-a-voter.php]voter apathy[/url] in L'hexagon.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

I'll assume here - as risky as that is - that Ms Bonin mentions Switzerland at the beginning and in the end only in reference to the voter turnout in that country neighboring Germany, but to avert a possible misunderstanding concerning the filmmaker who is placing his "Dear Oprah" series of mini movies online: Kasper Verkaik is Dutch, and that's a good explanation for his amazement at low turnout in the States, as in the Netherlands, turnout in the high 70s for general elections is considered low. With that out of the way: I agree that straight comparisons of turnout figures among countries with very dissimilar government structures and electoral processes, say, Switzerland and the US, makes little sense. Besides, there's the issue that in many other countries, general elections yield a more broadly accommodating choice of parties, politicians and programs (or "planks"), resulting in phenomena unknown in US political vernacular such as coalitions, parliamentary confirmation (and its corollary, opposite vote of confidence), ministerial accountability, and so forth. Without stepping much further, I personally believe that that greater structural ability to reflect political diversity is more inviting, or at least less exclusive than is the case in the US. Traveling from the reverse angle, I believe the presence of elements such as an electoral college in the US, a complex (as in: non-uniform) primary system, which practically begs for low overall participation due to their chronologically staggered organization and resulting uneven share of voice among states, and other factors arising from a certain opaque disparity in applicable electoral rules varying per state, all contribute to a relatively low turnout which, as Verkaik's mini movie also points out, is especially prevalent among voters from younger, poorer, and non-White demographies. Of a different caliber entirely is deliberate disenfranchisement as a pursued strategy; in broad and general terms (setting e.g. gerrymandering issues aside) disenfranchisement tends to favor the right, or in reverse, voter turnout drives favor the left. All in all, I consider the relative low turnout in the US (i.e. 64% of eligible US citizens in the 2004 presidential elections) a deliberate product, rather than a mysterious phenomenon. That is why I find it troubling that, in spite of frequent references and appeals to virtuous democracy and democratic principles one can observe in the political discourse of politicians of all stripes and colors, such verbiage isn't matched by an all-out concern to engage in a longer term endeavor to remove structural barriers and broaden the appeal of democratic participation, as a matter of democratic principle. Somehow, I'm afraid that the aforementioned leverage effect of higher voter turnout (that arguably benefits more left-leaning policies) is precisely the stumbling block here; be that as it may, it also speaks unfavorable tomes to the true nature and dimensions of democratic credentials. Lastly, in reference to France: the record low turnout in the very recent municipal elections is greatly explained by a significant part of the right-leaning electorate sitting on their hands, signaling displeasure toward the President. By contrast, voter mobilization of the left-leaning electorate was rather successful, as the results plainly show. In other words, the recent municipal elections in France had a highly context-driven turnout. By way of a somewhat contrasting example, the general elections in Spain on March 9th showed a surprisingly high turnout, at a par with the (also context-driven) unusual spike of four years ago. My point here: turnout varies more according to political context than due to structural elements.

Don S on :

"disenfranchisement tends to favor the right, or in reverse, voter turnout drives favor the left." I note that you mention one loaded term without mentioning another phenomena, that of 'voting the graveyard' and other phatasmal voting. For an example one need look no further than my old hometown of Milwaukee, where more votes were cast in the 2004 Presidential election than there were registered citizens living in the city (by census data). This may be partially explained by the fact that voters were registered at addresses which were demonstrably not residences. Empty lots, fast food restaurants, office building, etc. So it's not only voter turnout drives (virtuous) which tend to favor the Left, but also phantasmic 'vote' tend to favor the Left. Another phenomena is that an eligible voter is defined by the law of the individual states. Criminal felons are not permitted to vote in many states although that prohibition is tempered by an appeals process in many of these states. Ex-felons who have not offended for a certain period and who bother to appeal their prohibition can get their franchise restored.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

There is a quite apt, common term for the two cases you present: they're both instances of voting fraud, pure and simple. The most obvious reason I didn't bifurcate into such penally liable types of behavior in a developed democracy is that, indeed, they're against the law. By contrast, voter disenfranchisement by itself is not illegal. Deliberate disenfranchisement is, nonetheless, a reprehensible and immoral endeavor, whether the motivation is understandable or not; if only because in effect it's as much a denial of democratic principles as its illegal cousins you mention. As to stripping voting rights from convicted persons: I think it speaks for itself when such convicts systematically are denied their right to vote. That is not to say that the additional penal measure of stripping of voting rights is necessarily wrong, let alone unique; in many other countries, certain heinous crimes carry the potential enhancement of a denial of voting rights, such as (obviously) in the case of terrorism. Besides, it's not unique as, in an entirely different context with an entirely different justification, there's also the possibility of excluding a person from voting, as in the case of a judicial determination of incompetence: in those cases, it's also a matter of avoiding the potentiality of abuse and/or undue vote influencing in the act of voting (akin to why it's often categorically illegal to allow more than one person at the same time in the voting booth). But there's a distinct difference between specifically identifying certain types of "morally exceptionally reprehensible" crimes for such additional punishment, typically on a case by case basis, and generally applying it to any and all persons convicted of a felony. Especially when such a wholesale type of denial is applied to convicted persons who have already paid their penal dues to society, that is a form of pursued, deliberate disenfranchisement which I believe is hardly justified, whether it's technically speaking "legal" or not. And finally, as you rightly point out, indeed there are states where a convicted felon may have voting rights restored, typically after serving the full sentence and/or a given period of time, which I also consider ludicrous and indefensible (again, whether it's the local law or not) as it demotes the fundamental voting right in essence to a privilege subject to discretion, akin to drivers licenses. Such systematic obstruction is a reprehensible and insidious practice of systemic disenfranchisement, whether legally mandated or not.

James on :

All of these conspiracy theories always crack me up. Deliberate disenfranchisement. Sure, buddy... Are we off our meds today? in a more polite era, People used to give concession speeches after they lost elections. Now they accuse the winner of voter fraud. I've lived in the United States my entire life. I have failed to vote in two or three elections mostly when I was younger. Our government is not monolithic as people would expect. It was not until fairly recently (last 75-150 years or so) that the federal government started expanding into the monstrous hyrdra it is today. There are more representatives (town, county and state) than one can possible keep track of and lead a productive well-rounded life. The big impetus is for the executive positions like federal president, governor, mayor [in big cities], and congressman being the least important of the group. Eventually, they all boil down to two candidates in the end. If the policies of the candidates are heavily divergent [left versus right], there is more incentive to vote. If neither candidate stands out you get less turn out. The times I failed to turn out there was either very little to differentiate the top contenders or I didn't know enough about the positions to warrant cancelling someone elses vote. I don't understand why people get all hyped up about turn out. This isn't an exam where you have to fill out every question or you fail. One should only offer their input in a debate if one has something to say or sees something others miss. If I don't know any of the candidates for one of the dozens of positions on the ballot; i am happy to leave it blank or right myself in. Finally, there is the ignorance factor. Our education system is owned by the unions and the liberals/socialists. Any attempt to reform it is immediately demonized as taking candy from a baby. Pre-university has devolved into mostly anti-american propoganda, like a scene out of the movie clockwork orange (exagerating for humor). Alot of people are lazy or simply don't care. Its pretty sad but true unfortunately. This video recently horrified me: [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJuNgBkloFE]ClICK HERE for Video[/url] James Beverly, MA

Don S on :

Voting fraud to be sure, but voting fraud has been winked at for so long that it's become more of a policy than a crime. Mostly but not entirely by the left, or at least by the Democratic Party. The election of 1960 may well have been decided by massive voting fraud in Texas and Illinois. Both motor-voter (automatic registration of people obtaining a auto operation license) and mail-in voting have had many documented cases of abuse. Motor-voter registered voters have arrived at the polls only to discover that a vote has already been cast in their name, and community groups hold meetings in which mail vote forms are distributed and the voters instructed how to fill them out, and the ballots collected and posted - by the group. Distributing the ballots is within the law, as long as the voter fills them out and posts them in complete privacy. The public instructions and posting go too far. Some may compare these meetings with the 'voter guides' which certain churches in the Christian Coalition printed and distributed during the 80's and which Democrats widely decried, but there were several crucial difference. The voter was given a pamphlet to take home and read at his or her leisure, but their vote remained their own private decision. There is considerable evidence that a substantial proportion of christian evangelicals remain political moderates and liberals despite the supposed malefic influence of voter guides just as many union members voted for the GOP despite the consistently pro-Democratic stance and organisation provided by the unions they belonged to. There was a time when the Democratic Party was in favor of clean politics. Of course there was an earlier time when the Democratic Party was the major agent of voting fraud. It would seem that their 'clean-hands' policy was an artifact of having a comfortable margin over the GOP; when that margin vanished the clean-hands disappeared and 'whatever it takes' replaced it. The Republican efforts you describe as 'disenfranchisement' could also be described as combatting voting fraud.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

It would be ridiculous to attribute fraud to just one party. Some people simply have no conscience, and that's just one of the reasons for which criminal judicial systems exist. That's true in practically any democracy, and it's just as true in the US. The same also goes for organized disenfranchisement efforts, at whichever scale or level. As I said earlier deliberately, voting disenfranchise *tends* to affect one way more than the other; it's not necessarily in that direction indicated earlier. I still insist in calling it reprehensible and immoral, in whichever way it is aimed. However, the outcry over those "voter guides" distributed through some churches cannot and should not be considered "disenfranchisement". The "problem" there was another: there is a very sensitive and contentious issue in the separation of religious and political matters, of "church and state". So, organized distribution of political propaganda matter through (or by) churches rakes up controversy. But that's not voter disenfranchisement at all; in fact, one might argue the contrary, namely that such propaganda efforts actually encourage people to participate in elections. Still, the circumstance that churches engage in politics is a politically a highly controversial matter in the US, and not only in the US. For example, in my country of birth, Spain, during the recent general elections campaign, we saw some highly controversial public statements made by (Catholic) church officials, that were a hardly veiled endorsement of one party. That, too, led to very outspoken criticism - for the same reasons as those "voter guides" a decade ago in the US. As you rightly point out, it's absurd to attribute a given political orientation to the mere condition of being a "religious" person. Another thing is that it is generally fair to observe that persons with a more orthodox interpretation tend to lean proportionally more to the right, than to the left. However, that has very little to do with the issue of voter disenfranchisement, certainly not with organized disenfranchisement efforts. I'm not too sure myself that initiatives like motor voter and other "on the spot" types of voter registration are an adequate answer, though, as that widens up possibilities of fraud and error. Personally, I see no problem in insisting on proof of ID so as to "check off" voters against a previously qualified voter list available to the local election official (at the voting station itself), as is done for example in Spain. The thing is that, in the case of the US, there are two complications with that: on the one hand, a great sensitivity toward privacy (as such unified voter lists require a central, national voter census) and secondly, there is no nationally mandated ID requirement, contrary to many countries in Europe. Therefore, the cost and effort involved for someone to obtain an adequate ID document impacts unevenly on different demographics (whether by geography, for example rural areas, or by income, in disadvantaged neighborhoods). The harder it is to get an ID, the less likely it is that you'll go vote. Still, that's a more broad issue that I believe ought to be addressed in a larger public conversation in the US. Whichever way you look at the data, the participation in elections by people eligible to vote is appallingly low in the US, compared to other countries. For an advanced, powerful and large democracy I believe that should be considered an issue of great importance, a major priority to resolve, above and beyond petty and silly partisan considerations. To promote voter participation in general is, in my opinion, a testament to patriotism.

Joe Noory on :

It depends. Which part of the ideological divide is more likely to be populated with younger people who may not have teh same respect for the notion of a fair vote? Or are more likely to convince themselves that radicalism means "breaking a few heads for the good of humanity"?

David on :

Don, Are you forgetting the infamous [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_New_Hampshire_Senate_election_phone_jamming_scandal]Republican Phone Jamming Scandal?[/url]

John in Michigan, USA on :

I think Don is talking about voter fraud that goes unprosecuted. The scam you cite, is not voter fraud. The convictions as far as I can tell were of ordinary phone harassment laws (plus the all-purpose perjury, obstruction, conspiracy, etc). No voting laws were violated. Clearly the indent was to suppress voter turnout, but they were caught and prosecuted. Now, care to site a recent case of voting fraud by Dems in which people were prosecuted? And convicted? Of a felony, not just misdemeanor? They are out there, but I think you will find they are rare. In the Dem primary, Dems (mostly Clinton-related) are accusing each other of the same tactics that Republicans used to supposedly steal the 2000 and 2004 elections. John Fund at the Wall St Journal has [url=http://www.google.com/search?q=John+Fund+voter+fraud+%2Bsite%3Awsj.com&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a]excellent coverage[/url].

Pat Patterson on :

Probably the most well known case of fraud arises from the shennanigans of ACORN which is mostly funded by the AFL-CIO and UNITE. There has been two convictions, that I am aware of in Wisconsin and Colorado for turning in fake names to acquire and then return absentee ballots. While several states have returned indictments or are conducting investigations into this Democrat connected group, ie., Kansas, Missoouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. [url]http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=19737#continueA[/url] It seems that Democrats engage in inflating the tallies and Republicans then try to suppress it. Neither admirable but it is noteworthy that the more voting is made easier, repealing many Progressive Era good government voting laws, then the lower the turnout.

Pat Patterson on :

These figures need to be taken with a grain of salt as the numbers reported by the Census Bureau reveal something else. In the last election 63.8% eligible voters voted but over 88.5% of the registered voters used the franchise. The second highest percentage of registered voters, compared to the elderly, was the black population which somewhat precludes the constant cries of voter suppression that come and go with the clouds every election cycle. [url]http://www.census.gov/prod/2006pubs/p20-556.pdf[/url] And I know this sounds cynical and undemocratic but I really don't want people voting that think AIDS is a CIA plot, that Jews and Blacks are stealing the country, people with Alzheimer's and I especially don't want students that have a difficult time remembering to go to class and the difference between Puff Daddy and Puff the Magic Dragon. Come to think of it has anyone seen the two of them together, ever?

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

It's certainly laudable to slay faux conspiracies and dragons alike, but if one makes comparisons among figures of turnout of eligible voters, one should stick to the same definition, instead of comparing, um, rap artists and intelligence agencies. It's certainly striking that sixty-four percent is considered "high" in the US.

Pat Patterson on :

I'll have to assume that this is in response to the rather minor clarification that I sought to make. What "faux conspiracies" are being referred to is also a mystery? Also where in my comment did I refer to any percentage being "high" other than the use of highest as a comparison not a value? But in the United States the truism is that those that want to vote are self selecting, ie., by registering and voting. While those merely eligible to vote, much like being eligible to go to college, have a much lower turnout. As to the very odd demand to use the same definition of eligible voters, complain to the US Census Bureau as they have reasonably concluded that eligible means any citizen above the age eighteen.

David on :

One aspect of the Obama Campaign has been the success in bringing new voters and lapsed voters into the democratic process. In New Hampshire I worked with a group of African-Americans from Texas who had never voted before - since they felt "it didn't matter", their concerns were never addressed by elected officials. Now they were a thousand miles from their homes going door to door for a candidate.

John in Michigan, USA on :

David, I want to again encourage you to explain you earlier comments on this forum, in light of what we now know about Rev. Wright's vicious hate-mongering. How on earth can you be so sensitive to the least whiff of hate against your candidate, when his spiritual mentor at times preaches the most venomous, explicit, hateful words I have heard in a long time? I am not just talking about the controversial parts of Wright's sermons, although they are bad enough. I am talking about the parts that are uncontroversially WRONG, and delivered dripping with hate: [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=617eK2XIaLk&feature=related]"the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color[/url] (40 seconds into the video), or [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaNBzU6iryo&feature=related]"the government gives them the drugs"[/url] (beginning of video), and so on. No doubt there are many decent people in Wright's church, and Obama is one of them. Obama's speech in Philadelphia was outstanding, [url=http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MjI3MWMyOGFkNmQ2MGFjNzRhYzYwMGVhZWJhMjcyOGM=]and got praise from unexpected Corners[/url]. No doubt there's much more to Rev. Wright than just hate. But the hate is there. The hate is not casual, and it is not peripheral. Wright didn't just make hateful statements, he preached them from his pulpit on a Sunday. The hate was important enough to Wright's basic message to become enshrined in his DVD! Obama has denounced him, but so far, Wright stands by every word. David, since you've so enthusiastically accused and condemned your colleagues on this forum, may I look forward to you condemning the Rev. Wright? Can we also agree that, in general, academic analysis, policy debates, journalism, etc., absent any inflammatory rhetoric or emotion, are not hate speech, no matter how controversial or objectionable you many find them?

Merkel2 on :

US politics is highly mature. An Democratic or Republican leader make not great difference in their domestic or foreign affairs. The president and its adminstration is under supervision by other strengthes. So voters' involvement is not big deal. they are not face the choice of good or evil. Although all the candidate distinguish himself/herself from others even by some dirty gossip, I guess they share the same political backgrounds. They make the same fake promises to voters for supports, they smear their rivals for illegal and immoral benefits. They are professinal politician . No need to criticize or glorify them , They are the political symbol, without them ,other honourable politician liars will get involved. no exception here and there. That's the politic game steered by politician.Voters can choose not to play the game . Thank to the US mature politic regime, the nation will not significantly derail . I believe if the voting become a matter of good or evil , More eligible voters will participte into it.

Anonymous on :

"US politics is highly mature. An Democratic or Republican leader make not great difference in their domestic or foreign affairs. The president and its adminstration is under supervision by other strengthes." Very true. On the rare occassion when there would be a big difference, such as fear that a Democrat in the White House would tank another war, turnout increases. Why the assumption among the left that not voting is some sort of sin? Most of those who don't vote are also those who know the least about politics, who would be most easily mislead because they have wide-open, educable minds that have not yet matured. The Left loves to target them with empty slogans. But since Barack Obama has for 20 years attented a church with a preacher who thunders "God d*** America!" from the pulpet, before a congregation that replies "Amen!"... Since that church spews anti-white racism in books, DVDs and website material... Since it spews communism and anti-Americanism from the same... And since one of its members, Barack Obama, thinks he should be president of the United States, we Americans ask what for? To d*** America? Or to help it, Barack? So, he is in bed with a bunch of communist, anti-American moonbats who hate this country and thinks he should president, eh? I think that could bring the American electorate out in force.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

With all due respect, the issue presented here is not about an individual's absolute and sovereign discretion to exercise one's right to vote as deemed fit, including the option of not exercising it. That is what political freedom is about. But when a surprisingly low percentage of eligible citizens of a "mature" democracy effectively exercises that right, not coincidentally but in a trend confirmed in election cycle after election cycle, it would behoove any committed citizen, of any political stripe, to ponder on its significance. Especially when signs of systemic roadblocks start showing up, depressing what is a sovereign citizenry's right, that is at the very least a signal of legitimate cause for concern over the state of health of the democracy. Seen more in a more positive light, it is an excellent opportunity to leave silly politics aside and focus on the common, bigger picture. To shuffle such an opportunity aside for a merely more convenient alternative of inertia is not only conclusive proof that something is amiss; it is above all an appalling testament to citizenship gone awry. That has nothing to do with silly party politics, and everything with conscientiously earning citizenship, in the process doing the community a service. Evidently, there's no obligation to vote, just as there's no obligation to act judiciously; it simply works better for society as a whole if at least a significant portion does so. So no, "the left" doesn't think that "not voting is a sin". Any responsible citizen believes that a deliberate effort to throw obstacles in other people's right to exercise their right to vote is a capital sin in any self-respecting, free and mature democracy. I.e., this is not a "left" or "right" issue; it's a general, good citizenship concern. By the by: goodness knows what Senator Obama or the color of tea in China has to do with this issue, other than as a categorical distraction, as much as I acknowledge that we now live in the middle of silly season. To project an ability into one person to change political participation, even assuming for argument's sake that that person will indeed be elected to the highest office, is hardly a token of a "mature democracy". It's called wishful thinking. And that is precisely that which I believe lies at the root of the bigger problem here. And I say this without detracting one iota from the Senator's many qualities. Hope is what one needs to accompany belief in the larger common enterprise, which unfortunately only comes once you have a solid plan and a collective commitment to stick to it in the first place. Starting in the reverse direction may be an appealing proposition perhaps, but it's hardly a trustworthy path to deliverance. As I've had the immense privilege of savoring the defects and merits of democracy on both sides of the Atlantic, I feel confident in stating that a combined dose of reality-based skepticism and less emotional attachment will work wonders. Democracy may be quite mature in the USA, I'm no so quite certain about its citizenry on the whole. Again: balance is the key.

Sonja Bonin on :

Anonymous, please refrain from slander of anybody on this page. We don't appreciate the kind of language that needs *ing either ... Thanks.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

I believe the following article, although a bit older, is a good introduction to the issues involved in mandatory disenfranchisement for convicted felons, with nigh impossibly steep reinstatement conditions: [url=http://www.hrw.org/reports98/vote/usvot98o.htm]http://www.hrw.org/reports98/vote/usvot98o.htm[/url]

John in Michigan, USA on :

The article makes some good points, but too often confuses the symptom (too many African-Americans deprived of the vote due to conviction of crimes) with the cause (too many African-Americans convicted of crimes). The reasoning mostly boils down to, criminals suffer too much punishment. Consider an experiment: how many felons would choose to serve an extra month in jail, in order to have the right to vote when they get out? Would they be more likely to rehabilitate if they did? Would society benefit? I think the answer to all these questions is no. The exception might be the lifetime ban on voting. This practice is too similar to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Letter]The Scarlet letter[/url]" Of course, a far worse form of Scarlet Letter practiced today are the various state and federal "[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megans_law]Megan's Law[/url]" in which relatively minor sex offenses require the offender to wear the shame for life. If we must have a Megan's Law, it should only apply to severe or repeat sex offenders. To me, liberalizing the Megan's Laws around the country is a far higher priority than giving ex-felons the vote. "Disenfranchisement laws in the U.S. are a vestige of medieval times when offenders were banished from the community and suffered 'civil death'" This civil death sounds a lot like what happened to [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali]Ayaan Hirsi Ali[/url], only [i]she did nothing wrong[/i]. I would like to see more attention paid to how merely violating poorly defined and inconsistently enforced "consensus" in Europe can result in civil death.

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