Jeff Manza, Christopher Uggen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLocked Out
Subtitle of host publicationFelon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199943975
ISBN (Print)9780195149326
StatePublished - May 24 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2006 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Criminal offenders
  • Democratic governance
  • Felon disenfranchisement
  • Political rights
  • Right to vote


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