I negate the resolution.
The resolution includes the word "retain," which means that felons, no matter their status--incarcerated, paroled, on probation--in the affirmative world, would be allowed to vote. Secondly, we can draw a distinction between felons and ex-felons; those who have served their time or otherwise paid their debt to society are outside the bounds of the resolution. The resolution makes no claims about permanent disenfranchisement.
The right to vote is granted only to citizens who have reached the age of majority and are judged competent.
As Monique Lanoix writes in "The Citizen in Question," found in the Fall 2007 edition of Hypatia, writes, (Bloomington:Fall 2007. Vol. 22, Iss. 4, p. 113-129
The citizen is required to have elevated cognitive capacities; these come with maturity and imply that the individual cannot have significant cognitive impairments such as advanced dementia. In this way, the concept of the citizen is tied to a specific period in an individual's life, namely adulthood with mental competency.Furthermore, as Robert A. Dahl writes in Democracy, Liberty, and Equality, (pp. 212ff, c. 1986)
Citizenship depends on contingent judgments, not categorical rights. And the contingent judgments need not lead to universal inclusion.... That we cannot get around the principle of competence in deciding on the inclusiveness of the demos is decisively demonstrated by the exclusion of children.... Children therefore furnish us with a clear violation of the principle that a government must rest on the consent of the governed, or that no one should be subject to a law not of one's own choosing, or subject to a law made by an association not of one's own choosing.Therefore, the state can and must place reasonable restrictions on the right to vote.
With these facts in mind, I offer a value of Dignity.
In "Democratic Liberalism: The Politics of Dignity," Craig Duncan writes,
This discussion of constraining a person's capacity for responsible choice helps us to understand one of our core values, namely, the value of freedom. This is so because constraints on people's exercise of their powers of choice are in fact constraints on their freedom. It thus follows that respect for a person's dignity requires one to respect that person's freedom. And there is yet more that respect for dignity requires.... [T]he ideal of respect for human dignity also underlies the core value of human equality.Duncan further explains that a dignity-based conception of equality is foundational to democracy.
What, though, about the second threat to dignity identified above, the threat to citizen's equality? This was the risk inherent in any distinction between the rulers and the ruled, namely, the risk of failing to recognize citizens' status as beings capable of leading their own lives via their capacity for responsible choice. The proper response to this threat surely lies in some form of democracy, which gives citizens an equal share of voting power, thereby recognizing in a significant way their equal status as beings capable of responsible choice....The line of argument from respect for dignity to democratic government is thus straight and short.Since the moral foundation of democracy is dignity, and since dignity is our "capacity for responsible choice," and, furthermore, since democracy depends on the responsible choices of its demos, or voting citizens, I offer responsible choice as my criterion. Responsible choice has two necessary components, as Lanoix explains.
The citizen is one who can be politically active; he must be able to voice his discontent or his assent. For example, in Rawls's theory, the political person must possess two moral powers: a sense of justice and a vision of his ends.When we choose to violate others' rights, we deny them their dignity, and abdicate our political equality. I will show how this not only grounds, but requires, the disenfranchisement of felons.
Contention One: Criminals deny the dignity of their victims and themselves.
Criminals use other humans as means to an end. They steal property, commit acts of bodily injury, maim, kill, and destroy. Duncan writes,
"[T]reating others as mere instruments for achieving your personal ends is one way of failing to recognize others as responsible beings, and thus one way of failing to treat them as equals."Contention Two: This denial is proof of felons' failure to make responsible choices.
By treating others unjustly, felons undeniably and irrevocably demonstrate an inadequate sense of justice and a murky vision of their own ends.
Contention Three: The State is therefore justified in denying felons the right to vote.
As was already established, the State has the right to place reasonable restrictions on political participation. Since it is reasonable for society to protect the dignity of its members, and to express the importance of dignity by punishing felons, then there is no moral duty on the state's behalf to maintain felon suffrage. In contrast, the State has a moral duty to disqualify those who violate others' dignity.