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Felon Disenfranchisement and Voter Turnout


  • Thomas J. Miles


Several states permanently disenfranchise convicted felons, and according to existing estimates, the population of disenfranchised felons is disproportionately male and African-American. This paper examines the impact of felon disenfranchisement on state-level voter turnout. First, the paper shows that the number of disenfranchised felons is so large that conventional measures of voter turnout, which fail to correct for the ineligibility of disenfranchised felons, significantly understate the participation rates of eligible African-American men. Second, the paper uses a triple-differences framework to test whether disenfranchisement actually reduces the turnout of African-American men. The estimates reveal that disenfranchisement has no discernible effect on state-level rates of voter turnout. The absence of an effect is consistent with the view that on average felons belong to demographic groups that, although eligible to vote, infrequently exercise that right. The estimates suggest that the impact and purpose of these laws are more modest than previously thought.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas J. Miles, 2004. "Felon Disenfranchisement and Voter Turnout," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 85-129, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:33:y:2004:p:85-129
    DOI: 10.1086/381290

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas Buchmueller & John Dinardo, 2002. "Did Community Rating Induce an Adverse Selection Death Spiral? Evidence from New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 280-294, March.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:81:y:1987:i:02:p:405-423_19 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Burden, Barry C., 2000. "Voter Turnout and the National Election Studies," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(04), pages 389-398, July.
    4. McDonald, Michael P., 2003. "On the Overreport Bias of the National Election Study Turnout Rate," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 180-186, March.
    5. Lochner, L., 1999. "Education, Work, and Crime: Theory and Evidence," RCER Working Papers 465, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael V. Haselswerdt, 2009. "Con Job: An Estimate of Ex-Felon Voter Turnout Using Document-Based Data," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 262-273.
    2. Klumpp, Tilman & Mialon, Hugo M. & Williams, Michael A., 2017. "The Voting Rights of Ex-Felons and Election Outcomes in the United States," Working Papers 2017-3, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
    3. repec:kap:pubcho:v:172:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0448-6 is not listed on IDEAS

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