Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More on owning preperty to vote

Commenter David made the point:

This criticism always sounds a little hollow--when people talk about interpreting the constitution 'as the framers intended', I'm pretty sure they don't mean the parts that later amendments changed.

What is difficult is that it is pretty clear from his quote that Judson Phillips really does believe this; go look. Now it could be that this is a minority view and not very typical.

But I jumped on it because this comment seemed to open a lot of issues:

But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.

So what happens if you have a mortgage on a property? Do you own it? What about a lien? How do you easily keep track of who has successfully sold their house (and thus lost the right to vote). When does this count? What if you buy a house right before election day?

Furthermore, how much property is enough? Do we value it by space? What about by value? In a country as diverse as the United States, either Wyoming or Manhattan is going to be complicated.

How would this interact with eminent domain? If the state seizes your house are you disenfranchised? Could this interact in unexpected ways with the idea of equal protection?

If you own land in city X but live (by renting) in city Y, where do you vote? What if you rent your house but own a cottage? Or a garden plot?

Finally, I wonder if the act of owning land really leads to stability given how liquid houses are. It might become more of a marker of wealth; arguing that only the wealthy should vote is a dangerous position.

So I was mostly struck by how badly this proposal seemed to be thought out and how complicated it would be to implement.


  1. I 'own' an acre on the moon. Do I get to vote now?

  2. Owning land is... a marker of not being part of the liberal urban elite. I think that's why voting should be limited to landowners.

    Yeah, that quote is definitely not about interpretation--we do have amendments letting every citizen vote.

    I'm not sure how I missed this. I spoke way too quickly--I'm sorry.

    Thanks for your posts, which I always appreciate.