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December 27, 2007


I think Professor Marshall makes a good point, but he would do well to refine his numbers a bit. To my understanding, it is not uniformly true that convicted felons are ineligible to vote. Eligibility varies from state to state. It is probably the case that all or nearly all states do not permit incarcerated felons to vote, but the eligibility of felons who are no longer incarcerated is more variable.

The more fundamental question is whether high voter turnout is necessarily desirable. When a country is stable, when the outcome of the election isn't likely to change the form of government or the nature of the economic system or the central elements of the society, then it is not surprising that many eligible voters don't much care about the outcome and don't follow the campaigns or bother to vote.

When we apply high-pressure tactics to make indifferent members of the electorate go to the polls, their choices are more likely to be made on arbitrary criteria (whose looks they like, whom they identify with in terms of race or religion or gender or region, etc.) than on informed decisions about the candidates and their positions. Having elections turn on the whims of indifferent voters is not, in my view, a formula for a successful democracy.

My previous comment should of course have referred to Professor McDonald. Confusing him with Josh Marshall was inexcusable.

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