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Evaluating Congress’s Constitutional Basis to Abolish Felony Disenfranchisement

Abstract: In the past three years, members of Congress unsuccessfully introduced a series of federal voting rights legislation, most recently the Freedom to Vote Act. One goal of the legislation is to abolish felony disenfranchisement. Felony disenfranchisement is the practice of revoking a citizen’s right to vote due to a prior felony conviction. The Freedom to Vote Act aims to restore voting rights for every citizen who has completed their prison sentence. A ban on felony disenfranchisement would be historic, as the practice stretches back to ancient Greece and Rome. Moreover, the United States Supreme Court consistently upholds the practice by placing great weight on the Fourteenth Amendment’s allowance of disenfranchisement for “rebellion, or other crimes.”

The modern practice of felony disenfranchisement disproportionately impacts communities of color and recently prohibited over five million Americans from voting in the 2020 national election. This Comment analyzes the two most prominent constitutional arguments for Congress’s power to abolish felony disenfranchisement. Ultimately, this Comment concludes that neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Elections Clause is an appropriate basis for ending felony disenfranchisement. However, this Comment introduces three alternative constitutional arguments for Congress to end felony disenfranchisement.

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Abstract: This Article argues that trusts and estates (“T&E”) should prioritize intergenerational economic mobility—the ability of children to move beyond the economic stations of their parents—above all other goals. The field’s traditional emphasis on testamentary freedom, or the freedom to distribute property in a will as one sees fit, fosters the stickiness of inequality. For wealthy settlors, dynasty trusts sequester assets from the nation’s system of taxation and stream of commerce. For low-income decedents, intestacy (i.e., the system of property distribution for a person who dies without a will) splinters property rights and inhibits their transfer, especially to nontraditional heirs.

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T&E scholars are tackling inequality with greater urgency than ever before, yet basic questions remain. For instance, what do we mean by “inequality”? How can we remediate inequality? And what goals should we advance in redressing inequality? This Article contributes to these conversations by articulating a comprehensive framework for progressive inheritance law that redresses long-term inequality.

Download the Full Article

Other Articles from WLR Print Edition

December 1, 2023 in PRINT EDITION

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Abstract: The public trust doctrine guarantees that the government will hold natural resources in trust and protect them for the common good. The doctrine has played a key role in…
Read More
December 1, 2023 in PRINT EDITION

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Read More
December 1, 2023 in PRINT EDITION

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Abstract: Article 17 of both the Montreal Convention and its predecessor, the Warsaw Convention, imposes liability onto air carriers for certain injuries and damages from “accidents” incurred by passengers during…
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