Con Job: An Estimate of Ex-Felon Voter Turnout Using Document-Based Data


  • *Direct correspondence to Michael V. Haselswerdt, Department of Political Science, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY 14208 〈〉. The author will share Erie County, NY, voting data and coding used in this study for those wishing to replicate this study. Because New York is a “confidentiality” state, data and coding on ex-felons must be obtained from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The author thanks David vanAlstyne of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the staff of the Erie County Board of Elections, and Perry Gaddis of ES&S for providing the data. The author acknowledges the helpful comments of members of his department, particularly those of Jonathan DiCicco, as well as those of anonymous reviewers. Finally, the author thanks Anthony Rizzo, Canisius Earning Excellence Program student, for his valuable assistance.


Objective. Ex-felon voter turnout was estimated for the first time using government records rather than statistical models. Statistical models have estimated that 25–35 percent of eligible ex-felons would vote in federal elections.

Methods. Six-hundred-sixty recently released ex-felons in Erie County, NY, who would have been legally eligible to register and vote in 2004 or 2005, were compared with data from the Erie County Board of Elections to determine whether they registered and voted in either 2004 or 2005.

Results. Five percent this population of ex-felons voted in either 2004 or 2005.

Conclusions. Single-digit turnout among ex-felons raises questions about the assumptions underlying statistical estimates, and it also suggests that elections would have to be very close for ex-felons to have an impact on the results.