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Turnout and Party Registration among Criminal Offenders in the 2008 General Election


  • Traci Burch

  • I would like to thank Jennifer Hochschild, Gary King, Sidney Verba, Kay Schlozman, Andrea Campbell, D. Sunshine Hillygus, Vesla Weaver, the members of the American Politics Research Workshop at Harvard University, Barry Burden, and Jamie Druckman for their comments on various drafts of this article. This article was funded by the American Bar Foundation and Northwestern University. Please direct all correspondence to Traci Burch, The American Bar Foundation, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th floor, Chicago, IL 60611; e-mail:


This paper estimates the voter registration, turnout, and party registration in the 2008 general election for men with felony convictions in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, and North Carolina. The findings indicate that turnout among felons is much lower than previous research has shown. Ex-felon turnout in 2008 varied by state, averaging 22.2 percent. People captured and convicted for their first offense after the election voted at similarly low rates. Also contrary to the expectations of previous literature, the ex-felon population does not seem overwhelmingly Democratic. In North Carolina and Florida, two states for which the data are available, party registration varies by race. Among registered black male ex-felons, 71.7 percent in North Carolina and 84.2 percent in Florida are registered Democrats. Among whites, however, only 35.3 percent and 36.4 percent of ex-felons are registered Democrats in North Carolina and Florida, respectively.