Ballot Manipulation and the "Menace of Negro Domination": Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850-2002

Angela Behrens, Christopher Uggen, Jeff Manza

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Abstract

    Criminal offenders in the United States typically forfeit voting rights as a collateral consequence of their felony convictions. This article analyzes the origins and development of these state felon disenfranchisement provisions. Because these laws tend to dilute the voting strength of racial minorities, we build on theories of group threat to test whether racial threat influenced their passage. Many felon voting bans were passed in the late 1860s and 1870s, when implementation of the Fifteenth Amendment and its extension of voting rights to African-Americans were ardently contested. We find that large nonwhite prison populations increase the odds of passing restrictive laws, and, further, that prison and state racial composition may be linked to the adoption of reenfranchisement reforms. These findings are important for understanding restrictions on the civil rights of citizens convicted of crime and, more generally, the role of racial conflict in American political development.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)559-605+i
    JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
    Volume109
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Nov 2003

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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