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Ballots Instead of Bullets? The Effect of the Voting Rights Act on Political Violence

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  • Jean Lacroix

Abstract

The extension of voting rights epitomizes the construction of modern democracies. This paper empirically investigates the effect of such an enfranchisement on political violence in the context of the US Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, which forbade discrimination in voting. The formula the VRA used to determine the counties it applied to generated both geographic and temporal local discontinuities in enfranchisement. This paper’s empirical strategy takes advantage of these features by comparing the evolution of political violence in geographically close covered and non-covered counties. Difference-in-differences estimates indicate that VRA coverage halved the incidence and the onset of political violence. Additional empirical evidence implies that voting became the new institutionalized way to state political preferences. Indeed, VRA coverage mostly decreased electoral and small-scale strategic violence. This result is not explained by disaggrievement. Extensions suggest that new strategies of political action may explain a decrease in violence after enfranchisement.

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  • Jean Lacroix, 2023. "Ballots Instead of Bullets? The Effect of the Voting Rights Act on Political Violence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 764-813.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jeurec:v:21:y:2023:i:2:p:764-813.
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    1. Degrave, Anne & Lopez-Peceno, Alejandro & Rozenas, Arturas, 2024. "Peasants into Citizens: Suffrage Expansion and Mass Politics in France," TSE Working Papers 24-1529, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Andrea Bernini & Giovanni Facchini & Marco Tabellini & Cecilia Testa, 2024. "Sixty Years of the Voting Rights Act: Progress and Pitfalls," Economics Series Working Papers 1035, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • H89 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Other

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