The Voting Rights of Senior Citizens: Should All Votes Count the Same?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-17 (forthcoming)
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In 1970, Stewart advocated disenfranchising everyone reaching retirement age or age 70, whichever was earlier. The question of whether senior citizens should be disenfranchised has recently come to the fore due to votes on issues such as Brexit and climate change. Indeed, there is a growing literature which argues that we should increase the voting power of non-senior citizens relative to senior citizens, for reasons having to do with intergenerational justice. Thus, it seems that there are reasons of justice to disenfranchise senior citizens, or at least to grant them a lower voting weight than non-senior citizens. In this paper, we investigate whether there are democratic reasons to do so. To answer this question, we turn to the boundary problem in democratic theory, i.e., the question of who should be included in democratic decision-making. Two prominent solutions, and a more recent one, are particularly relevant: the all-affected principle, the all-subjected principle, and the relational egalitarian principle. When it comes to the all-affected principle and the all-subjected principle, we argue that there is reason to grant most senior citizens a lower voting weight than most non-senior citizens in most decisions. Whether that is the case on the relational egalitarian principle depends on how people relate to each other in society. Indeed, it is sometimes in accordance with the relational egalitarian view to grant senior citizens a greater voting weight than non-senior citizens.

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Author Profiles

Andreas Bengtson
Aarhus University
Andreas Albertsen
Aarhus University

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