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Against the Political Exclusion of the Incapable

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


Political exclusion on grounds of incapacity is the primary remaining source of exclusion from the franchise. It is appealed to by states and theorists alike to justify excluding young people (under 18) and many people with cognitive disability from the franchise. Defenders of this exclusion claim that no wrong is done by this exclusion and that states gain some significant benefits from this restricting of the franchise. I have argued elsewhere that political exclusion as currently practiced in modern liberal democratic states in fact causes significant harms, as it excludes some people who have the relevant capacity for political participation. Here, I argue that the exclusion of incapable actors prevents no significant harms to democratic outcomes, and that it confers no significant democratic benefits on the states practising this exclusion. As such, I argue that we ought to heavily modify and perhaps even abandon the capacity standard for political inclusion.