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Incarceration and Vote Dilution

Incarceration and Vote Dilution

Recent studies have shown the effects of incarceration on felon disenfranchisement for both individual and aggregate voting outcomes. However, the relation of incarceration and voter participation at the local level has not been assessed. Suppression of voting due to localized (neighborhood) concentration of disenfranchised former prisoners may adversly affect neighborhoods in three ways: (1) the dilution of political power that is necessary to influence the distribution of public services or moderate policies that affect neighborhood life, (2) attenuation of citizen's relations with the law, leading to their withdrawal from social regulation and disrupted ties to law and legal actors, and as well as withdrawal from informal social control, and (3) exclusion of residents from political and social networks that connect them to civil society. In this project, we examine patterns of voting over time, and identify the extent to which incarceration rates affect voting patterns in specific neighborhoods of New York City from 1990 through 2002. The data combine data on voting within election districts with patterns of crime, incarceration, and neighborhood social structure. To estimate the effects of incarceration on voting as a function of the changing contexts of crime and incarceration in New York City neighborhoods. We next examine the implications of this work for currentl litigation under the Voting Rights Act.