Last updated on: 4/25/2008 | Author:

Does the Argument of No Taxation without Representation Justify Giving Felons the Vote?

PRO (yes)


S. David Mitchell, JD, Scholar in Residence in the Dept. of Sociology at the University of Colorado, stated in his Dec. 2004 article in Bad Subjects magazine titled “The New Invisible Man: Felon Disenfranchisement Laws Harm Communities”:

“Ex-felons who manage to become gainfully employed are still required to pay taxes even though they are denied the benefits associated with those duties such as the ability to elect their representatives or to decide on policies that will govern their lives, and lives of their families.

Centuries ago this prospect of taxation without representation was untenable to some Americans.

Today, however, such a policy is acceptable, as long as the voice that is denied is that of the ex-felons. Consequently, by alienating ex-felons and treating them as non-citizens, felon disenfranchisement laws merely contribute to the difficult process of reintegration for the ex-felon.”

Dec. 2004 - S. David Mitchell, JD


Global Exchange, an international human rights organization, stated in its online article “Felon Disenfranchisement; Taxation Without Representation: End Felon Disenfranchisement,” accessed Apr. 5, 2007 from the Vote Justice website:

“Permanent disenfranchisement of former felons, a practice that falls outside of international or even U.S. norms, is an unreasonable restriction that creates subcategories of citizenship in the United States. Ex-felons are expected to contribute to society as gainfully employed citizens, pay taxes and raise families, but their disenfranchisement gives them no say in how those tax dollars are spent, who sits on their children’s school board, or who represents their interests in government.”

Apr. 5, 2007 - Global Exchange


The California Catholic Conference stated in an Apr. 19, 2005 review of a California assembly bill designed to require the state to notify felons when they become eligible to vote:

“The right to vote is a foundation of citizenship. We require ex-felons to pay taxes and comply with the laws enacted by their legislators when they return to their communities. The right to vote, a hallmark of our democracy, should follow. Pragmatically, the restoration of voting rights promotes rehabilitation and reintegration into our community.”

Apr. 19, 2005 - California Catholic Conference


Matt Welch, Editor-in-Chief at Reason magazine, stated in his July 25, 2003 article “Felonious Bunk; Why Ex-Cons Should Be Given The Vote”:

“The combined [felon voting] laws have created the democratic world’s largest pool of adult citizens living under a system of taxation without representation.”

July 25, 2003 - Matt Welch

CON (no)


Pamela S. Karlan, JD, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford University, told 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 - Pamela S. Karlan, JD


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 - Roger Clegg, JD


Roy, a software engineer in Texas who asked to reference him by his first name only, posted a comment to 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.”