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The right of the franchise is the cornerstone of both democratic expression and American citizenry. Suffrage is not a mere means of formal representation, but also denotes a citizen’s civic worth. Accordingly, any restrictions on this right should be heavily considered. This paper will primarily deliberate on the specific voting restrictions placed on felons, both historically and currently, and their disproportionate effects on people of color. Secondly, it will delineate plausible policy alternatives to mitigate these effects.

Racial obstructionism has been an enduring facet of the criminal justice system (and the collateral consequences associated) since the Reconstruction era. From Jim Crow laws to sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine users, race has played both an implicit and direct role in shaping legislation. This paper specifically explores the nuance behind contemporary “colorblind” legislation as it relates to felon enfranchisement. With the historic context of disfranchisement presented, I will employ the rationalism model to assess policy alternatives which will increase enfranchisement and equity while reducing administrative costs. After a thorough evaluation of the possible costs and benefits of each alternative, this paper identifies automatic restoration of voting rights upon release from prison as the best policy alternative. This alternative will not only swiftly and efficiently reintroduce felons to civic engagement, but will also eliminate interstate policy inconsistencies and the administrative costs associated with the continued usage of absentee ballots. The anticipated long-term derivative of this policy will be a more cohesive and rehabilitative treatment of criminals.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Subject
    • Political Science & International Affairs

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event location
    • Library Technology Center 382

  • Event date
    • 24 March 2017

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Barry Friedman