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Democratic Contraction? Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States

July 2002

Christopher Uggen, Jeff Manza


This paper studies the effect disenfranchising felons has on electoral outcomes. Authors estimate that democratic candidates would receive roughly 70% of felon and ex-felon votes, thereby finding a distinct republican advantage to disenfranchising felons. They additionally find that 7 US Senate races since 1978 would have likely had a different outcome had felons and ex-felons been allowed to vote; in every case a republican victory would have become a democratic victory. Further, they find that these changes would have likely had implications on the control of the senate. They continue their analysis by examining presidential elections, and find that, had felons and ex-felons been allowed to vote in the 2000 election, Al Gore would have almost certainly carried Florida, and thus won the presidency.

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Policy Implications

These findings lead to the very persuasive conclusion that felon and ex-felon voting have distinct advantages for the Democratic Party. Had all these citizens been allowed to vote, 7 US Senate and one presidential election would be overturned in favor of the Democratic Party. This suggests that policy changes on the inclusion or disenfranchisement of felon’s and ex-felon’s suffrage will likely have decisive effects on future US elections.

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