Volume 43, Issue 2, April 2017
Matt S. Whitt
Felon Disenfranchisement and Democratic Legitimacy
Philosophers have long criticized policies that deny voting rights to convicted felons. However, some have recently turned to democratic theory to defend this practice, arguing that democratic self-determination justifies, or even requires, disenfranchising felons. I review these new arguments, acknowledge their force against existing criticism, and then offer a new critique of disenfranchisement that engages them on their own terms. Using democratic theory’s “all-subjected principle,” I argue that liberal democracies undermine their own legitimacy when they deny the vote to felons and prisoners. I then show how this argument overcomes obstacles that cause problems for other critiques of disenfranchisement.