When Felons RulePosted: November 6, 2015
So, disgraced public servant and convicted felon Joe Ganim is back in office in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city. As I’ve written in the past, Connecticut law (General Statutes § 9-46a) allows convicted felons to run for office if they have completed their sentence and paid all fines and penalties. What I haven’t discussed is whether I think that law is good or should be changed.
Many folks I know take the position that “the people” have the right to elect whoever they want, and that the individuals who voted for the losing candidate just have to live with the disappointing (from their perspective) results of the election. Under our system of majoritarian rule, 50.1% of the voters (who, based on voter turnout, may be a small percentage of eligible voters and an even smaller percentage of the population of the relevant town, city, etc.) can put a great candidate in office. But they can just as easily inflict upon the entire population a poor candidate, i.e., someone who really is not fit to govern, by virtue of lack of meaningful experience or sound judgment, questionable morals, etc. In a democracy, however, that’s the way the system works.
In general, I agree with the position espoused above. But only in general. It is one thing for 50.1% of actual voters to inflict a poorly qualified candidate upon the entire population. It is another thing entirely for [the law to allow] a bare majority of actual voters to force the entire population to be ruled by an individual with a criminal history of violating the public trust while previously in office.
I believe in second chances. We all make mistakes in life, some of them very serious and with criminal implications. I do not believe that a felony conviction alone should disqualify someone from running for public office. I do believe that a felony conviction based on bribery, embezzlement or other dishonest conduct involving abuse of the public trust while holding an elected or appointed public office should permanently bar someone from holding public office again. I think General Statutes § 9-46a should be amended accordingly.