Social Justice Research

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 72–88 | Cite as

Voter Turnout, Felon Disenfranchisement and Partisan Outcomes in Presidential Elections, 1988–2012

  • Edward M. BurmilaEmail author


States vary in their treatment of the voting rights of convicted felons through incarceration, probation, parole, and beyond. A few states permit even incarcerated felons to vote, while others rescind the right permanently, with most states’ policies located between those extremes. This paper analyzes the relationship among voter turnout, election outcomes, and levels of felon disenfranchisement by state. The results show a pattern of divergence around the 2000 election before which turnout, disenfranchisement, crime rates, and Republican or Democratic success in elections were unrelated and since which strong correlations are found. Disenfranchisement rates no longer bear a significant relationship to crime rates, and states won by Republicans have both lower overall turnout and higher levels of ineligible felons in the voting-age population. Partisan control of state legislatures does not predict these patterns, but there is a strong regional component to the data with disenfranchisement notably higher in Southern states regardless of partisan control. Overall the data support a need for further research on the disparate treatment of felon voting rights among states which may be contributing to broader trends emerging in political science research of a growing relationship between lower voter turnout and Republican electoral success.


Voter turnout Felon disenfranchisement Elections Inequality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.

Human and Animal Rights Statements

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Ethical Approval

The research and manuscript were conducted and prepared in accordance with all ethical guidelines stated in the Social Justice Research “Instruction for Authors.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bradley UniversityPeoriaUSA

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