When Felons Rule

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.

2 Comments on “When Felons Rule”

  1. Great idea. Peter Lumaj proposed something like this 13 months ago when he was running for Secretary of the State: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/lumaj_proposes_banning_some_convicts_from_public_office/
    Unfortunately, those in power did nothing to make this a law and now Bridgeport has Joe Ganim as their mayor again.

  2. Louis says:

    Joe Ganim is only one of them! Bill Clinton lied about having sex with Monica. Hillary Clinton lied about many subjects and changes her views on different matters as soon as needed to please who ever he talks to. Still they are popular enough among the general population for her to be a for runner in the coming elections. Those are two of the most famous. I can carry on mentioning hundreds more examples across the nation.
    You write: “Peter Lumaj proposed something like this 13 months ago..” and “Unfortunately, those in power did nothing to make this a law ….” Is all this as sign of the evolution of the moral values of the people of this great nation?
    The problem is greater than what happened in Bridgeport, This image that the rest of world has of the UNITED STATES is deteriorating at a growing speed. Those of us in international trade suffer from an ever increasing lack of respect and decreasing trust! Not good for a country whose economy relies so much on export!

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