American Democracy

  • Voter fraud
  • Treason
  • Espionage

That’s probably literally the full list.


Repeated assault of voting officials? I’m being tongue in cheek, you’ve probably got the whole list.

Also I think this all goes back to the theory of justice. From memory it either is or should be something along the lines of:

The goal of the justice system is as follows:

  1. Establish what is and isn’t harmful
  2. When harm occurs, set it right
  3. Prevent harm from occurring

That’s it. That in order. Everything in the justice system should be able to be boiled down to those points.

Prison sentences, courts, bail, everything is derived there.

Where does revocation of voting rights come into the picture?


One other layer of complexity, maybe there’s already a solution, where do prisoners reside? Do they maintain residency where they lived before? Do they file to change residence to the prison? Are there communities with large prison populations that might dominate local elections? That could be weird. I have no idea if it would be an actual problem, but the thought does come to mind. Prison industrial complex may be the core problem that would have created this situation to begin with though…


This is the direction I generally think as well, and I believe they are all tied to a single core concept: flagrant disengagement from, disregard for, or damage to the fundamental structures of the country.

Killing someone is reprehensible, but is not necessarily a threat to the entire social structure. But engaging in treason or voter fraud fundamentally betrays the country, and is a clear indication that you are not interested in acting with the good of a society in mind.

If you declare your lack of investment in actual cooperative governance and would rather just tear the whole thing down, you don’t deserve a say in how it’s run. “Enemy of the state” and all that jazz.


That is an interesting problem. I’d say residence prior to incarceration. This would avoid the issue of a bunch of people in one spot who can vote to change things that really don’t affect them, like speed limits and zoning restrictions.


Wherever the prison is. That’s where they’re living. That’s where local and state regulations affect their lives.


Very few places vote that way. Referendums are rare. This isn’t really a concern.


I mean we’re talking about something that’s not gonna happen, can we also live in ‘referendums are common land’ while we’re at it?


So, California, where everything’s kinda fucked up and weird?


It’s a bit more subtle than that, depending on whether the prison is local/county, state, or federal.

A federal prison would fall under federal regulations and be pretty much separate from local/state issues that would be relevant to someone incarcerated there (i.e. why would someone from Massachusetts imprisoned in Colorado care about Colorado school board funding?). What federal prison you’re sent to often has little relation to where you resided prior to incarceration.

Local/county and state prisons generally fall under local/county state provisions, but you’ll probably be imprisoned somewhere relatively close to your residence prior to incarceration, so it’s probably a toss up either way.

This of course assumes you’re arrested and sent to a state/local prison in the same state you reside. Revising my federal example from above, suppose you’re a Massachusetts resident who commits a state crime and is arrested and convicted in Colorado. While Colorado prison issues more directly affect you in prison, you may actually care more about what’s going on in your home state, especially if you have immediate family there or are planning to return there once you serve your sentence.

Perhaps prisoners should be given the option of voting in their local prison elections or via absentee ballot for their prior residence, similar to what is sometimes done with college students. I recall back when I was in college voting at least once in Rhode Island, where I was attending college, and voting at least once (not in the same election, of course) via absentee ballot in my home state of Massachusetts.


The problem with voting in the residence prior to incarceration is that doing it that way screws the area where the prison is.

Typically, where you vote is also where you’re counted in terms of representation in Congress. The more people in an area, the more representatives that area gets. So by having the prisoners still technically be part of the residence prior to their incarceration, you’re depriving the area where the prison is located of the federal funding and whatnot that comes with a larger voting base. You’re also giving outsized political power and representation to the area where they’re no longer living, but still technically belong to.

I’m not saying that you’re wrong, but if that was the case, we would need to separate where you’re counted to vote from where you’re counted for Congress… But if you do that, that creates the problem where you have all these felons not being able to vote for the representatives that control the area where their prison is located.

See the problem here?


I do, and it’s legit, though how do we solve it for Americans voting from abroad? I mean, fucking astronauts in orbit vote.

The way I very briefly thought this through was treat prisoners as Americans voting abroad. I thought our big issue would be felons with no prior fixed address. Or felons who register to vote while incarcerated.


Prison populations are counted in districts to decide how many people are electing a specific representative in congress. But then the prisoners can’t vote. So the practice is to include non-voting populations into safe seat districts.

Prison votes count wherever the population of the prison is used to buff stats.



My only concern (which is not an argument against) is that being imprisoned is a vulnerability, and that vulnerable people are easier to exploit. I would not want some shady people with money buying votes from prisoners.


That’s true, but there are plenty of vulnerable people who are not prisoners, and I don’t see anyone buying votes from them.


Oy… that’s a horrifying context. Three fifths compromise comes to mind.


Wouldn’t ballots need to be kept private anyway? Couldn’t a Prison of all places be able to set up a fairly secure private voting station? What’s the point of buying them off if there’s no proof? Have a third party come in, setup a polling station in the mess mall, and no guards or prison staff are to interact with anything that compromised the privacy of the voters. You could have a registration time before the election and so on the day they would have your specific ballots ready to go.

So to buy votes I’m guessing you’d then have to go the route of just campaigning or claiming “if so and so doesn’t win this election, you are all getting [punished]” which probably is a grossly illegal thing or at least would need to be under whatever changes give people in jail the vote.


If politicians had to campaign in prisons, I bet you’d see some fucking prison reform in a hurry.


I don’t necessarily mean literal buying with money. There is a power dynamic between the jailed and the jailor, between citizens and law enforcement that has a clear history of abuse. The very context of being unable to leave and self-determine implies that prisoners can be coerced with denial and abuse, as well as bribery. My only point is that such a process would have to be rigorously protected, even more so than an ideal for free citizens, which the country is already far from meeting. And again that is not to say it shouldn’t happen.