Does the Argument of No Taxation without Representation Justify Reenfranchising People with Felony Convictions?
The Inner-City Muslim Action Network, in an undated article, “No Taxation Without Representation Campaign,” accessed on Aug. 4, 2021 and available at imancentral.org, stated:
“Representation in exchange for taxation was one of the founding principles of the United States of America. It embodies our national resistance to tyranny. Yet in 2020, centuries after the U.S. gained freedom, justice, and democracy, Georgia has more people on parole and probation than any other state, and remains one of 30 states that does not restore voting rights upon release from prison. Such denial subverts the dignity of the American democratic experience.
The power of the vote is the power of self-determination. It’s the ability to have a say so in deciding what we believe to be best for ourselves, our families and our communities. To deny access to government and the distribution of power that exercises authority over us, while at the same time imposing scores of taxes upon us, is fundamentally unAmerican and needs to be corrected immediately. None of us want to be defined by the mistakes we made in the past, particularly when we’ve learned from those mistakes, grown, and are now actively better because of it.”Aug. 4, 2021
Shakur Abdullah, Founder of Nebraska’s JustUs 15 Vote who was formerly incarcerated, as quoted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in an Oct. 14, 2020 article, “The Sentencing Project, Criminal Justice Experts and Formerly Incarcerated People Discuss New Report on Felony Disenfranchisement,” available at civilrights.org, stated:
“Given my own personal history, and this country’s history of systemic racism and white supremacy, I felt the full weight of my ancestors behind me when I voted for the first time. We ought to remember that this country was founded on the principle of no taxation without representation. I was immediately required to pay taxes upon my release from incarceration, but my vote wasn’t accepted. This should never be the case.”Oct. 14, 2020
Kristen Powers, Advocacy Coordinator for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, as quoted by Brian Murphy in an Aug. 26, 2019 article, “Thousands on Probation Can’t Vote in NC. Here’s How Many Were Convicted for Trying.,” available at newsobserver.com, stated:
“They’re living in the community, paying taxes. There’s a ‘taxation without representation’ argument that can be made. They’re being denied one of their most basic rights.”Aug. 26, 2019
Jason Marque Sole, PhD, Adjunct Professor at Hamline University who was formerly incarcerated, in an Oct. 25, 2017 article, “How I fought to restore my voting rights — and why we should more quickly restore others’,” available at minnpost.com, stated:
“‘No taxation without representation.’ Since my voting rights are terminated until I finish my Draconian 20-year probationary sentence (which ends in July of 2026), does that mean I’m tax exempt? Where’s this notion of fairness that the government speaks so highly of?…
Those of us who are poor and disenfranchised are consistently denied access to power. If the Constitution is committed to creating fairness and equality for ALL, how could I be denied voting rights when I pay taxes? Isn’t that criminal in nature?…
I disgraced my mother, my community, and myself when I committed my crimes. The Constitution of the United States continues to disgrace all Americans by taking taxes from the same citizens it simultaneously denies the right to vote.”Oct. 25, 2017
Roger Clegg, JD, President and General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, stated in a Nov. 1, 2004 debate on felon voting:
“Here’s my basic position: In our democracy, there’s a strong presumption that everyone should be allowed to vote. I think that there are both instrumental and equitable reasons for this… and letting everyone vote is a way of diversifying risk…
And, equitably, we believe that there is something troubling about being bossed around without having some say. The most famous formulation of this principle is, ‘No taxation without representation.’ And yet, we don’t let everyone vote. We don’t let children vote, for instance, or noncitizens, or the mentally incompetent. Why? Because we don’t trust them and their judgment. We have different reasons for not trusting them, but it seems to me that that is their common denominator.
For some groups of people, their untrustworthiness trumps the instrumental and equitable presumptions. We’re confident enough that children and the mentally incompetent lack good judgment; we don’t see it as inequitable to bar noncitizens from voting, and we question their commitment to our res publica.
So the question is, do criminals belong in that category? And I think the answer is clearly yes. People who commit serious crimes have shown that they are not trustworthy.”Nov. 1, 2004
Roy, a software engineer in Texas who asked ProCon.org to reference him by his first name only, posted a comment to TalkLeft.com on Dec. 17, 2005 titled “Felony Disenfranchisement: Slow Progress Made, More Needed”:
“‘No taxation without representation’ is a nice ideal, but unworkable as an absolute. Children and all manner of aliens all pay taxes. It doesn’t make sense to let them vote or to make them totally tax-exempt.”
Pamela S. Karlan, JD, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford University, told ProCon.org in a Nov. 7, 2007 email:
“While I support the restoration of voting rights for offenders, I don’t think taxpaying is the basis for restoration, since there are all sorts of people who are taxed but have no entitlement to vote — for example, children and noncitizens — and as to whom I would not support granting the right to vote.”Nov. 7, 2007