In Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy (2006, Oxford University Press), Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota and Jeff Manza of New York University address the following questions:


1.    Scope: How many people are affected?

o    Approximately 5.85 million Americans were affected by these laws in December 2010 (2.23 million were African American).

o    See also: For earlier estimates, see Christopher Uggen & Jeff Manza. 2002. "Democratic Contraction? The Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States." American Sociological Review 67:777-803.

2.    Public Opinion: Does the public support strict felon voting restrictions?

o    No. Our Harris poll showed that 80% favor returning voting rights to former felons once they complete their sentences, 60% favor reenfranchising parolees and probationers. Only 31%, however, favor allowing current prisoners to vote.

o    See also: Jeff Manza, Clem Brooks, & Christopher Uggen. 2004. “Public Attitudes Toward Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States.” Public Opinion Quarterly 68:276-87 and 2012 What Americans Believe about Voting Rights for Criminals.

3.    Impact: Do felon voting laws affect elections?

o    Yes, but only in close Republican victories in states with very strict laws. Felon voting bans likely affected the 2000 presidential election and 7 U.S. Senate elections.

o    See also: Also American Sociological Review 67:777-803.

4.    Origins: Where do the laws come from?

o    They have ancient roots, but many strict U.S. felon voting bans are linked to racial conflict during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.

o    See also: Angela Behrens, Christopher Uggen, & Jeff Manza. 2003. “Ballot Manipulation and the ‘Menace of Negro Domination’: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850-2002.” American Journal of Sociology 109:559-605.

5.    Meaning: Do felons even care about voting and politics?

o    Our interviews and surveys show somewhat lower levels of political participation, trust in government, and political efficacy among felons than in the general population. Yet many felons express strong political views on a variety of issues.

o    See also: Christopher Uggen & Jeff Manza. 2004. “Lost Voices: The Civic and Political Views of Disenfranchised Felons.” Pp. 165-204 in Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration, ed. by M. Pattillo, D. Weiman, & B. Western. New York: Russell Sage.

6.    Crime: Is voting linked to crime and recidivism?

o    We do not know whether voting reduces recidivism, but we find a strong correlation. In our Minnesota data, voters in 1996 were about half as likely to be rearrested from 1997-2000 as non-voters.

o    See also: Christopher Uggen & Jeff Manza. 2004. “Voting and Subsequent Crime and Arrest: Evidence from a Community Sample.” Forthcoming in Columbia Human Rights Law Review.


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