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Locked OutFelon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy$
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Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195149326

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149326.001.0001

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(p.11) 1 Foundations
Locked Out

Jeff Manza

Christopher Uggen

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by reviewing arguments that supporters of felon disenfranchisement have used to frame the public debate. But the contemporary arguments in support of felon disenfranchisement do not help us understand how these laws came into existence in the first place. We must instead look to the legal, political, and historical record to understand how we got to this point. The denial of political rights to criminal offenders can be found under very different types of democratic (and protodemocratic) regimes, and the practice has been a hot topic of philosophical debates since at least Aristotle. Understanding this history requires exploration of premodern political regimes and legal systems, classical philosophical writings, and their enduring traces in contemporary legal and political discourses. That is the goal of this chapter. But before exploring how and why societies disenfranchise, we must first ask why the right to vote became—and has remained—a bedrock of democratic governance.

Keywords:   felon disenfranchisement, political rights, criminal offenders, right to vote, democratic governance

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