Felon Disenfranchisement and Voter Turnout
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.
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