The Politics of the Restoration of Ex-Felon Voting Rights: The Case of Iowa

Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 10, pp. 41-100, 2015

60 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2021

See all articles by Marc Meredith

Marc Meredith

University of Pennsylvania

Michael Morse

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

We investigate how the restoration of voting rights affects the political participation of ex-felons. Our primary analysis uses unique administrative data from Iowa, which changed how ex-felons restore their voting rights in both 2005 and 2011. Prior to 2005, ex-felons had to apply to the governor to restore their voting rights. We show that ex-felon turnout increased after Iowa began to automatically restore these rights. Consistent with misinformation being a significant barrier to ex-felons’ political participation, ex-felons were more likely to vote if they were informed about this policy change. The application requirement was re-instated for ex- felons discharged since 2011 and we show that this reduced their 2012 presidential election turnout. We conclude by comparing the actual turnout rate of recently discharged ex-felons in Iowa, Maine, and Rhode Island to the turnout rate that Uggen and Manza’s (2002) method predicts. This comparison suggests that although restoration procedures can substantively affect ex-felon turnout, restoration procedures are not the only reason why ex-felons vote less often than observably similar non-felons.

Keywords: felon disenfranchisement, voting rights, empirical legal studies

Suggested Citation

Meredith, Marc and Morse, Michael, The Politics of the Restoration of Ex-Felon Voting Rights: The Case of Iowa (May 2015). Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 10, pp. 41-100, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3872752

Marc Meredith

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Michael Morse (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E 60th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/morse

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