Felon Disenfranchisement and Legal Financial Obligations
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Morse, Michael Loren
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CitationMorse, Michael Loren. 2021. Felon Disenfranchisement and Legal Financial Obligations. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis Dissertation offers an empirical account of felon disenfranchisement and legal financial obligations in the era of mass incarceration. It focuses on the passage of a 2018 ballot initiative, known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. At the time, the Republican-controlled state accounted for more than one-quarter of the United States’ disenfranchised citizens. Marshaling hundreds of public information requests, this Dissertation introduces multiple novel datasets that cover the hundreds of thousands of petitions collected to put the initiative on the ballot, the millions of ballots cast for its watershed victory, the voter registration records of people whose voting rights were restored, and the outstanding fines and fees that cause many to remain disenfranchised. Part I offers a history of the campaign and the tradeoffs it made to depoliticize disenfranchisement and win Republican support. Part II demonstrates the limited partisan consequences of expanding the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Finally, Part III shows how the assessment of fines and fees complicates attempts to dismantle disenfranchisement. Amendment 4 restored the vote “upon completion of all terms of sentence,” but a sentence can drag on indefinitely, tangled up in collection efforts that extend well beyond any period of supervision. Because most people with felony convictions owe outstanding fines and fees, Florida continues to disenfranchise more citizens than any other state. Ultimately, the campaign for Amendment 4, and the ensuing partisan implementation and litigation over its scope, suggests that felon disenfranchisement reform should be recast: as a question of citizenship, rather than partisanship; and as an issue intertwined with, rather than separate from, the criminal justice system.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368517
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