UH Moment

UH Moment: “Crime and Voting”

A new collection of essays co-edited by a University of Houston political science professor examines how the United States and other countries address current and ex-prisoners and the right to vote.┬áListen to this week’s UH Moment.

There is reverence and privilege associated with the act of voting, but to whom is that extended? A new collection of essays—International Perspective on Criminal Disenfranchisement Law—examines if the right to vote extends to current or ex-prisoners.

“Israel, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, the United Kingdom, they’ve all taken up this issue,” said political science assistant professor Brandon Rottinghaus.  “These countries have tried to answer this question in the legislature and the courts:  is there a universal norm for enfranchisement.”

UH Assistant PoliSci Professor Benjamin RottinghausRottinghaus co-edited the book with Alec C. Ewald, assistant professor of political science at the University of Vermont.  The book features 10 essays that address such issues as protecting a prisoner’s right to vote, campaigns to preserve prisoner suffrage in South Africa and Ireland, and the politics of prisoner disenfranchisement in Australia.  The foreword was written by Jeff Manza, a sociology professor at New York University who also has authored a book on criminal disenfranchisement.

Many countries weigh universal voting with the necessity to punish those who have done wrong Rottinghaus said.  In fact, several international court systems have seen high-profile felony disenfranchisement cases in the past five years.  Those cases have prompted legislative action and, in some cases, advocacy efforts.  While some argue that the right to vote should be refused to those who have violated the norms of civil society, Rottinghaus believes that sentiment is changing.

“In the next ten years, you will see another 20 or 30 nations that have changed their tactics in terms on how they allow for current incarcerated individuals and those who have left prison to vote,” he said. 

Brandon Rottinghaus is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.

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