In last week’s LEO, I wrote about grassroots efforts to end felon disenfranchisement in Kentucky. One of my sources for that story, the activist/organizer Kate Miller, mentioned a study critical of the following politically expedient notion: If Republicans restore voting rights for former felons, then those former felons will go out and vote Democrat, unleashing untold levels of biblical anarchy and electoral bloodshed, allowing the terrorists to “win.”
This assumption is empirically false; the study — conducted by the University of Louisville, no less — destroys any political argument that ultimately prohibits felons from voting. Titled “Estimating the Impact of Kentucky’s Felon Disenfranchisement Policy on 2008 Presidential and Senatorial Elections,” the survey administered mock ballots to a sample of 425 former felons spread cross 11 randomly selected Kentucky counties to determine whether lawmakers’ fears were true. The result? Except in a few rare instances (i.e. the 2000 presidential election, for obvious/sad reasons), the votes of former felons don’t significantly alter the outcomes of elections one way or the other.
Here’s the study’s conclusion (bold emphasis mine):
What is there to fear from granting this right to felons who have completed supervision and their term of punishment? As this study shows, political fears are unfounded, the results of nearly all elections are unlikely to have been changed, and restoration of voting rights carries with it important, positive correlates for former felons.