one man, one vote
according to yahoo news, iraq's independent electoral commission will comply with united nations guidelines and allow some prisoners to vote in the constitutional referendum this week. inmates who have not yet been convicted of a crime, including one very special pretrial detainee, should have the opportunity to cast a ballot later this week.
because he has not yet been convicted, saddam hussein would also be legally permitted to vote in the united states (were he a u.s. citizen). here, however, there would be no polling place or election commission sent out to solicit ballots of jail inmates and other detainees. the iraq electoral commission will be sending special "ballots and observer teams" to prisons on thursday so that inmates may vote.
of course, saddam hussein is no stranger to the electoral process, as a winner of avalanche victories in several elections. according to the bbc, he captured a solid majority of the vote in october 2002 -- 100 percent, or literally every one of the nation's 11,445,638 eligible voters selected hussein, up from the only-infinitesimally-more-plausible 99.96 percent he gained in 1996. the commission chairman, abdul-hussein hendawi, already seemed to be hedging on the former ruler's eligibility. other commission members were more favorable, such as elections board member izzedine al-mahmoudi: "theoretically, every Iraqi citizen over the age of 18 who is not convicted of a crime" has the right to vote.
i was once asked in a 6 am talk radio interview whether i thought "charles manson should decide the next presidential election." i hope that no tape survives of my caught-completely-off-guard response. it went something like... "uhmm... hmmm ... as a voter, i guess i'd personally errrr ... like to see more people vote who share my political preferences ... uhmm ... but we live in a representational democracy ... uhmmm ... where everybody gets to vote ... the people that i'd like to exclude might be different than the people you'd like to exclude [at which point mr. talk radio very cleverly told me he wanted to exclude manson and asked, again, whether i agreed or disagreed]... uhmmm ... with universal suffrage we can't really pick and choose who gets to vote... [oh yes we can, professor!] ... ). since that interview, i think i could come up with a more thoughtful answer and saddam hussein helps me see this.
can a bad person cast a righteous ballot? i can't think of a sharper rebuke to dictatorship than having the former dictator cast a vote. what about charles manson? is it an indicator of sickness or health in a democracy when her most stigmatized and vilified citizens step forward to register their votes alongside her most celebrated heroes?