Skip to main content

Punishment and Democracy: The Significance of the Disenfranchisement of Nonincarcerated Felons and Ex-Felons (WP-04-03)

Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen

The rapid growth in the felon population over the past three decades has made the use of disenfranchisement of felons and ex-felons increasingly significant for voting rights in general, sufficient to represent a partial retreat from the 150-year campaign to make the franchise universal. In this paper, Manza and Uggen focus on the denial of voting rights to nonincarcerated felons. Such restrictions are unique among democratic countries around the world. Most states have laws in place restricting voting rights of felons not in prison but living in their communities, and some states disenfranchise ex-felons as well. While survey data on this issue is limited, the authors present evidence clearly suggesting that the public does not support the disenfranchisement of nonincarcerated felons. Finally, they assess whether the growth of the disenfranchised but nonincarcerated felon and ex-felon population might have reached the point where it has the potential to influence election outcomes—probably to the detriment of the Democratic party.

Jeff Manza, Sociology and Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Christopher Uggen, Sociology, University of Minnesota

Download PDF