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Expert Available: MU Law Professor Says Economic Crisis Could Stop Citizens From Voting

Oct. 9, 2008

Story Contact:  Jeffrey Beeson , (573) 882-9144,
S. David Mitchell, (573) 882-8113 ,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – During election season, Americans are reminded of their freedoms and rights that allow them to vote for their leaders. As countless political polls try to predict how voters are being swayed, those polled may not be allowed to vote at all. A University of Missouri professor of law says that the current economic crisis could cause disenfranchisement, depriving citizens the right to vote.

S. David Mitchell, a specialist on felon disenfranchisement and the collateral consequences of felony convictions, has studied the impact of these laws, not only on ex-offenders, but also on the families of ex-offenders. In addition, Mitchell has reviewed how disenfranchisement contributes to the undermining of citizenship as a legal status. Recently, Mitchell explored the concept of citizenship and the detrimental impact on individual and collective or community citizenship when individuals are disenfranchised. 

With the economic crisis, the ranks of the disenfranchised are growing and citizens who never had a brush with the law may soon find themselves without a voice. One criterion for voter eligibility is a permanent address. With the spate of foreclosures, citizens are finding themselves ineligible and stricken from the voter rolls. However, there are simple steps to ameliorate the situation. Yet, in much the same way that ex-offenders lack knowledge about their rights, many citizens previously registered to vote might find themselves at a loss.              

His research revealed:

• Disenfranchisement has a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities.

• Disenfranchisement undermines citizenship and relegates individuals to second-class status.

In 2007, Mitchell authored “Undermining Individual and Collective Citizenship: The Impact of Exclusion Laws on the African-American Community,” which was published in the Fordham Urban Law Review, and an opinion editorial, Justice for All: Automatically Restoring the Rights of Ex-Felons published on the Jurist Legal News & Research Web site. 

Mitchell joined the faculty in 2006 and teaches torts, criminal justice administration, law and society, and collateral consequences of sentencing. His primary research focus is the collateral consequences associated with a felony conviction, and he recently published an article on the disproportionate impact of such laws on the African-American community. Mitchell served as a law clerk for the honorable Andre M. Davis of the U.S. District Court of Maryland from 2003-04. Mitchell is a member of the Boone County Offender Transition Network and serves on the Boone County Community Partnership Board of Directors in Columbia. 

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