U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Documentary Disenfranchisement

NCJ Number
Jessie Allen
Date Published
January 2012
77 pages
This article examines the idea that current administrative practices in some jurisdictions may turn temporary voting bans into lifelong voting bans for certain segments of the population.
This article examines current laws that bar convicted criminals from voting and explores whether these laws, while purported to be temporary, are in fact permanent bans on voting rights. The author claims that "persistent permanent disenfranchisement challenges the conventional wisdom about the political implications of criminal voting bans and the significance of recent legislative reforms;" that "felony disenfranchisement, as it is being practiced today, may no longer be constitutionally protected by long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent;" and that "the practices through which temporary criminal disenfranchisement becomes permanent reveal something about how legal documents work to transform social status." The author begins with an overview of current State and Federal laws that deal with the issue of voting rights for convicted criminals. The author next examines how the enforcement and administration of these laws has led to temporary voting bans becoming in fact permanent voting bans for convicted criminals who have completed their sentences. The author discusses the political and cultural implications that these bans have on the dilution of voting rates of various segments of society. Finally, the author examines the use of the Constitution for enforcing voting bans that disenfranchise eligible voters.