Collateral Consequences of Incarceration: The Political, Social and Racial Impact of Felon Disenfranchisement in Iowa From 2005-2016.
Universal suffrage legitimizes democratic governance. The establishment of a repressive United States criminal justice system, however, has imposed strict qualifications on the right to vote. Signified by racialized mass incarceration, the punitive law and order regime of the late 20th century has led to a crisis of incarceration that leaves more than 5 million Americans disenfranchised today. This paper maintains that felon disenfranchisement in the United States carries detrimental consequences for (ex-) felons’ processes of reintegration and moreover suggests that criminal voter disqualification contributes to increased racialized social stratification. Moreover, this paper studies the public policy of felon disenfranchisement at an intersection of punishment, race and citizenship discourse while applying theoretical frames consistent with social conflict and critical race theory. By use of the state of Iowa as a case study, I find that the collateral consequences of a felony conviction dilute the voting strength of racial minorities and have a significant impact on both regional and national American politics. This impact is potentially influenced by all three branches of government, making the political practice of felon disenfranchisement is a suitable topic for studying the role of power relations and racial conflict in American political development.
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