Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 11, 2020

Disenfranchisement and the Capacity/Equality Puzzle: Why Disenfranchise Children but Not Adults Living with Cognitive Disabilities

Attila Mráz ORCID logo

Abstract

In this paper, I offer a solution to the Capacity/Equality Puzzle. The puzzle holds that an account of the franchise may adequately capture at most two of the following: (1) a political equality-based account of the franchise, (2) a capacity-based account of disenfranchising children, and (3) universal adult enfranchisement. To resolve the puzzle, I provide a complex liberal egalitarian justification of a moral requirement to disenfranchise children. I show that disenfranchising children is permitted by both the proper political liberal and the proper political egalitarian understandings of the relationship between cognitive capacity and the franchise. Further, I argue, disenfranchising children is required by a minimalistic, procedural principle of collective competence in political decision-making. At the same time, I show that political equality requires the enfranchisement of all adults, regardless of cognitive capacities, and that the collective competence principle does not ground adult disenfranchisement. This justifies the progressive legal trend that holds the capacity-based disenfranchisement of adults to be incompatible with liberal democratic principles.


Corresponding author: Attila Mráz, Harvard University, E. J. Safra Center for Ethics, 124 Mt. Auburn St, Suite 520N, Cambridge, 02138, MA, USA,

Acknowledgments

I am indebted to János Kis, Zoltán Miklósi, and Daniel Viehoff for several inspiring discussions and their detailed comments on earlier versions of this work. Thanks are due to Rainer Bauböck, too, for extensive written comments on an earlier version, and to the participants and organizers of the workshop on Non-Universal Franchise? Eligibility and Access to Voting Rights in Transnational Context at the European University Institute, as well as to the participants and organizers of the MANCEPT workshop on The Politics and Ethics of Disenfranchisement at The University of Manchester. My thanks also go to Péter Cserne, Dmitrii Dorogov, and two anonymous reviewers of this Journal for very helpful suggestions and comments.

References

Archard, D. W. 2018. “Children’s Rights.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. N. Zalta, (Winter 2018 ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/rights-children/ (accessed September 14, 2019). Search in Google Scholar

Brennan, J. 2011. “The Right to a Competent Electorate.” The Philosophical Quarterly 61: 700–24, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9213.2011.699.x. Search in Google Scholar

Brennan, J. 2016. Against Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Christiano, T. 1996. The Rule of the Many: Fundamental Issues in Democratic Theory. Boulder: Westview Press. Search in Google Scholar

Christiano, T. 2008. The Constitution of Equality: Democratic Authority and its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Christiano, T. 2014. “Rationality, Equal Status and Egalitarianism.” In Do All Persons Have Equal Moral Worth? On ‘Basic Equality’ and Equal Respect and Concern, edited by U. Steinhoff, 53–75. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Clayton, M., and T. W. Chan. 2006. “Should the Voting Age be Lowered to Sixteen? Normative and Empirical Considerations.” Political Studies 54: 533–58, https://doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.1467-9248.2006.00620.x. Search in Google Scholar

Cook, P. 2013. “Against a Minimum Voting Age.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 16: 439–58, https://doi.org/10.1080/13698230.2013.795707. Search in Google Scholar

Daniels, N. 1988. Am I my Parents' Keeper? An Essay on Justice between the Young and the Old. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Daniels, N. 1996. Justice and Justification: Reflective Equilibrium in Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Dovi, S. 2007. The Good Representative. Oxford: Blackwell. Search in Google Scholar

Dworkin, R. 1986. Law’s Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Dworkin, R. 2000. Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Search in Google Scholar

European Commission for Democracy through Law [ECDL]. 2011. “Information note concerning the Interpretative Declaration of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters on the Participation of People with Disabilities in Elections.” (CDL(2011)043). http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL(2011)043-e (accessed September 14, 2019). Search in Google Scholar

Fiala-Butora, J., M. A. Stein, and J. E. Lord. 2014. “The Democratic Life of the Union: Toward Equal Voting Participation for Europeans with Disabilities.” Harvard International Law Journal 55: 71–104. Search in Google Scholar

Feinberg, J. 1973. Social Philosophy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. Search in Google Scholar

Fowler, T. 2014. “The Status of Child Citizens.” Politics, Philosophy and Economics 13: 93–113, https://doi.org/10.1177/1470594X13483482. Search in Google Scholar

Goldman, A. I. 1999. Knowledge in a Social World. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Search in Google Scholar

Goodin, R. E., and D. Gibson. 1997. “Rights, Young and Old.” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 17: 185–203. https://doi.org/10.1093/ojls/17.2.185. Search in Google Scholar

Guerrero, A. 2014. “Against Elections: The Lottocratic Alternative.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 42: 135–78, https://doi.org/10.1111/papa.12029. Search in Google Scholar

Hellman, D. 2011. When Is Discrimination Wrong? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Keyssar, A. 2000. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books. Search in Google Scholar

Kis, J. 2009. “Constitutional Precommitment Revisited.” Journal of Social Philosophy 40: 570–94. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9833.2009.01471.x. Search in Google Scholar

Kolodny, N. 2014. “Rule Over None II: Social Equality and the Justification of Democracy.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 42: 287–336, https://doi.org/10.1111/papa.12037. Search in Google Scholar

Lau, J. C. 2012. “Two Arguments for Child Enfranchisement.” Political Studies 60: 860–76, https://doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.1467-9248.2011.00940.x. Search in Google Scholar

Lecce, S. 2009. “Should democracy grow up? Children and voting rights.” Intergenerational Justice Review 9: 133–39. https://doi.org/10.24357/igjr.4.4.510. Search in Google Scholar

Letsas, G. 2013. “The Scope and Balancing of Rights: Diagnostic or Constitutive?.” In Shaping Rights in the ECHR: The Role of the European Court of Human Rights in Determining the Scope of Human Rights, edited by E. Brems, and J. Gerards, 38–64. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

López-Guerra, C. 2010. “Enfranchising minors and the mentally impaired.” Social Theory and Practice 38: 115–38, https://doi.org/10.5840/soctheorpract20123815. Search in Google Scholar

López-Guerra, C. 2014. Democracy and Disenfranchisement: The Morality of Electoral Exclusions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Mental Disability Advocacy Centre [MDAC]. 2011. “Save the Vote.” www.savethevote.info (accessed December 11, 2011). Search in Google Scholar

Minow, M. 1986. “Rights for the Next Generation: Approach to Children’s Rights.” Harvard Women’s Law Journal 9: 1–24. Search in Google Scholar

Nussbaum, M. 2009. “The Capabilities of People with Cognitive Disabilities.” Metaphilosophy 40: 331–51, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9973.2009.01606.x. Search in Google Scholar

Peter, F. 2016. “The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy.” In The Epistemic Life of Groups, edited by M. Fricker, and M. Brady, 133–49. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Petersen, P. E. 1993. “An Immodest Proposal: Let’s Give Children the Vote.” The Brookings Review 11: 18–23. https://doi.org/10.2307/20080359. Search in Google Scholar

Pildes, R. 2012. “Elections.” In The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, edited by M. Rosenfeld, and A. Sajó, 529–44. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Raad, R., J. Karlawish, and P. S. Appelbaum. 2009. “The Capacity to Vote of Persons with Serious Mental Illness.” Psychiatric Services 60: 624–28, https://doi.org/10.1176/ps.2009.60.5.624. Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. 1993. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. 1999. A Theory of Justice. Revised ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. 2001. Justice and Fairness: A Restatement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Raz, J. 1986. The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Redley, M. 2008. “Citizen with Learning Disabilities and the Right to Vote.” Disability and Society 23: 375–84, https://doi.org/10.1080/09687590802038894. Search in Google Scholar

Rehfeld, A. 2011. “The child as democratic citizen.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 633: 201–22, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0002716210383656. Search in Google Scholar

Schauer, F. 1981. “Can Rights Be Abused?.” The Philosophical Quarterly 31: 225–30. https://doi.org/10.2307/2219111. Search in Google Scholar

Saunders, B. 2008. “The Equality of Lotteries.” Philosophy 83: 359–72, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031819108000727. Search in Google Scholar

Schrag, F. 1975. “The Child’s Status in the Democratic State.” Political Theory 3: 441–57, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F009059177500300407. Search in Google Scholar

Schrag, F. 2004. “Children and Democracy: Theory and policy.” Politics, Philosophy and Economics 3: 365–79, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1470594X04046248. Search in Google Scholar

Schriner, K., L. A. Ochs, and T. G. Shields. 1997. “The Last Suffrage Movement: Voting Rights For Persons With Cognitive And Emotional Disturbances.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 27: 75–95, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.pubjof.a029929. Search in Google Scholar

Viehoff, D. 2014. “Democratic Equality and Political Authority.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 42: 337–75, https://doi.org/10.1111/papa.12036. Search in Google Scholar

Waldron, J. 1993. “Religious Contributions in Public Deliberation.” San Diego Law Review 30: 817–48. Search in Google Scholar

Waldron, J. 1999. Law and Disagreement. New York: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Waldron, J. 2000. “Votes as Powers.” In Rights and Reason: Essays in Honor of Carl Wellman, edited by M. Friedman, L. May, L. Parsons, and J. Stiff, 45–64. Dordrecht-Boston-London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Search in Google Scholar

Wall, S. 2007. “Democracy and Equality.” The Philosophical Quarterly 57: 416–38. https://doi.org/10.2307/2219111. Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2020-08-11
Published in Print: 2020-11-26

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston