Criminal Disenfranchisement and the Challenge of American Federalism
35 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009 Last revised: 26 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 24, 2012
This article reviews recent developments in American felony disenfranchisement law. Examining several variables’ impact on states’ likelihood of enacting reform, I find that only initial policy severity proves a strong predictor of restriction-relaxing change, as most of the dozen states enacting such reforms in the last decade began the period with extremely restrictive policies. Entrepreneurship by African American and Democratic lawmakers has been important, but many Republicans conclude that debating disenfranchisement can be advantageous to them, as well. The Help America Vote Act has centralized administration of this policy, while local officials retain important roles. The article concludes by examining two unresolved problems: whether ineligibility follows a person moving from one state to another, and whether Congress has the constitutional authority to enfranchise former offenders.
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By Alec Ewald