In an editorial today, The Hartford Courant argues against giving corrupt politicians a second chance at holding public office:
For elected leaders who betray the people’s trust by using their office in a criminal manner to put personal gain above the public good, the right to run again should be revoked.
I expressed the same view in a post on this blog last November, so I agree with the Courant 100%.
A comment posted on my initial post about changing the law that allowed convicted felon Joe Ganim to run for office again pointed out that former Republican candidate for Secretary of State Peter Lumaj made a similar proposal in 2013. Responding to that proposal, CT Newsjunkie reports that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill “said she had faith in voters’ ability to choose their candidates. She said prior felons running for office was not one of the state’s pressing election issues. Merrill said Lumaj’s proposal also raised constitutional concerns. ‘It contradicts the principle that once you have served your time and paid your debt to society, you can resume as a citizen,’ Merrill said. ‘I’m not sure it would pass constitutional muster.'”
In reading articles about Ganim’s comeback victory, I’ve seen others raise the same concern about whether denying a convicted felon the right to vote and/or run for state or local office would be constitutional. As I explain below, these concerns are without any basis in law. (Laws that impose limitations on candidates seeking federal office are a different matter and are beyond the scope of this post.) It troubles me that the Secretary of the State would suggest otherwise. Her words carry great weight and authority. She is certainly entitled to express her opinion on whether she thinks such a law would be good public policy. But she should not comment negatively on proposed legislation based on groundless legal concerns.
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.
Well, by a narrow margin voters in the Bridgeport Democratic primary have chosen their former mayor, convicted felon Joseph P. Ganim, to represent them as their candidate in the mayoral election in November. Unbelievable.
I wrote a post last March discussing the Connecticut law that allows felons to run for public office, but only if they have made “payment of all fines in conjunction with the conviction and once such person has been discharged from confinement, and, if applicable, parole.” I asked in that post whether Mr. Ganim had, in fact, paid all fines.
News about former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim’s interest in running for public office once again prompted me to take a look at the law in Connecticut concerning the rights of felons to vote and run for public office. Those rights are set forth in Chapter 143 of the General Statutes.
A person convicted of a felony forfeits his right to become an elector, i.e. his right to vote, AND “may not be a candidate for or hold public office.” See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-46. However, the law allows for the restoration of electoral privileges, including the right to run for and hold public office, “upon the payment of all fines in conjunction with the conviction and once such person has been discharged from confinement, and, if applicable, parole.” Id., § 9-46a.
Mr. Ganim was released from prison in 2010. Does anyone know whether he has satisfied the requirements for restoration of his electoral privileges and, if so, have his electoral privileges been formally restored?