ABSTRACT FROM SOROS OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE PROPOSAL (JEFF MANZA AND CHRISTOPHER UGGEN)

 

PROJECT SUMMARY

 

Convicted felons are deprived of the right to vote in virtually every state, and in 15 states many ex-felons are also barred from this basic right of citizenship. The massive increase in the incarcerated population has meant that the century-long struggle to enfranchise all Americans has begun to be reversed. Further, since poor whites and minorities are over-represented in correctional populations, denying felons and ex-felons the right to vote has weakened the political voice of poor and minority communities. These facts have recently drawn the attention of policymakers, as exhibited in the exchange in the Bradley-Gore Democratic presidential debate in Iowa on January 17. The time has now come for a systematic examination and reassessment of laws denying felons and ex-felons the right to vote. The goal of this project is to provide such as assessment. This work is important for a number of reasons: (1) It will develop rigorous estimates of the current size and historical trends in the disfranchised population, including detailed state-level analyses, and future projections. (2) It will assess the impact of these changes on political outcomes over the past 25 years information necessary to determine whether the disproportionate impact of felon disfranchisement on African Americans offers a viable challenge to such laws under the Voting Rights Act. (3) It will examine how experiencing criminal sanctions affects the growing numbers of incarcerated citizens through new survey research and in-depth interviews with individual prisoners. (4) Finally, it will make this important information available to policymakers, legal and political activists, courts, and the interested public.