The Voting Rights of Ex-Felons and Election Outcomes in the United States

30 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2017  

Tilman Klumpp

University of Alberta, Department of Economics

Hugo M. Mialon

Emory University - Department of Economics

Michael A. Williams

Competition Economics LLC

Date Written: March 16, 2017

Abstract

Approximately one in forty adult U.S. citizens has lost their right to vote, either temporarily or permanently, as a result of a felony conviction. Because laws restricting voting by felons and ex-felons disproportionately affect minorities, and minorities tend to vote for Democratic candidates, it has been hypothesized that felony disenfranchisement hurts Democratic candidates in elections, thus helping Republican candidates. We test this hypothesis using variation in felony disenfranchisement laws across U.S. states and over time. During the 2000s, a number of states restored the voting rights of ex-felons. Using difference-in-differences regressions, we estimate the effect of laws re-enfranchising ex-felons on the vote shares of major party candidates in elections for seats to the U.S. House of Representatives. We argue that the regression estimates provide an upper bound for the true effect of restoring voting rights to ex-felons on the vote shares of major party candidates. Using this upper bound, no House majority would have been reversed in any year between 1998 and 2012, had all states allowed ex-felons to vote.

Suggested Citation

Klumpp, Tilman and Mialon, Hugo M. and Williams, Michael A., The Voting Rights of Ex-Felons and Election Outcomes in the United States (March 16, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2934489

Tilman Klumpp

University of Alberta, Department of Economics ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R3
Canada

Hugo M. Mialon (Contact Author)

Emory University - Department of Economics ( email )

1602 Fishburne Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Michael A. Williams

Competition Economics LLC ( email )

2000 Powell Street
Suite 510
Emeryville, CA 94608
United States

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