Disenfranchising the Enfranchised: Exploring the Relationship Between Felony Disenfranchisement and African American Voter Turnout

Bridgett A. King, Laura Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Felony disenfranchisement is the removal of the right to vote following a felony conviction. Although it is clear that felony disenfranchisement constitutes diminished political capacity for citizens with felony convictions, what is not clear is the extent to which disenfranchisement reduces participation among those who are eligible to vote; particularly among African Americans who are overrepresented in the disenfranchised citizen population. In assessing the relationship between felony disenfranchisement policy and political participation, scholars have argued that socialization is the primary mechanism linking felony disenfranchisement to the political behavior of voting eligible citizens, finding that in the most policy severe states, turnout is lower. However, what the policy-severity-based perspective fails to acknowledge is changes to disenfranchisement policy that affect the restoration of civil rights; changes that often occur without affecting the severity of felony disenfranchisement policy while dramatically changing the size of the disenfranchised population in a given state. Given the role of socialization in the transmission of participatory norms, assessing the impact of disenfranchisement requires using measures that take into consideration both severity and restoration. Utilizing estimates of state-level disenfranchisement and African American disenfranchisement from the 2004 presidential election, this analysis investigates the relationship between disenfranchisement and African American voter turnout. The findings suggest that African American disenfranchisement plays a unique role in predicting African American voter turnout and lend themselves to the need to further consider the community and neighborhood effects of disenfranchisement on political participation and civic engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-821
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Black Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • African American
  • civil rights restoration
  • disenfranchisement
  • felony
  • hyperincarceration
  • voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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