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.