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State Felon Disenfranchisement Policy

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Objective. Felon disenfranchisement policies impose restrictions on a felon's right to vote. Since these policies disproportionately affect minority citizens, legal scholars and others argue that felon disenfranchisement is a result of racial politics, aimed primarily at undermining the electoral power of black and Latino citizens. This study evaluates these claims in a rigorous empirical analysis. Methods. The study uses cross-sectional data on current state felon disenfranchisement policies in an order probit regression analysis to examine race-based explanations in light of competing hypotheses. Results. The findings demonstrate that the size of the minority population, parity in incarceration rates, and the degree of legislative professionalism are the primary explanatory factors of this policy. Conclusions. Given the continued rise in minority incarceration rates relative to those for whites and the link between the racial composition of a state and the severity of felon disenfranchisement laws, the study raises important questions regarding the future of minority participation in the democratic process.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Denver

Publication date: 01 December 2001

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