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The Sciences

Lose Your House, Lose Your Vote, Lose Your Self-Esteem

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyOctober 10, 2008 11:47 PM

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By now, word has gotten out that the mortgage crisis could have a detrimental effect on voting: In losing their home addresses, subprime victims may become ineligible to vote under certain state laws if they fail to update their voter registration information. If this happens, says University of Missouri law professor S. David Mitchell, the psychological impact on those who were, essentially, administratively disenfranchised could be severe. Mitchell, who has studied the effects of disenfranchisement on felons and minorities, found that stripping people of their voting rights "undermines citizenship and relegates individuals to second-class status." Whether or not someone planned to vote or has ever voted doesn't matter—it's the right to vote that glues together the "social contract" we implicitly make by agreeing to live under society's laws. Remove that glue, and you wind up eroding not only the person's psychological status, but also the health and stability of his or her community. So there you have it: Administrative fine print is leading to the erosion of society. Wouldn't it be nice if we could figure out how to solve all this with a mouse click?

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