Defense Date

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Faye S. Taxman

Abstract

The disenfranchisement of felons follows a long American tradition of selectively granting the most coveted democratic tradition - voting. As a collateral "civil" consequence to criminal conviction that is legally deemed as non-penal, felon voting prohibitions have been used as an exclusionary tool for certain otherwise eligible voting populations. Current research finds that African-Americans individually and collectively may experience diminished voting power due to felon voting laws (Uggen & Manza, 2002; Manza & Uggen, 2004; King & Mauer, 2004). The purpose of this research is to examine opinions toward felon voting prohibitions in a state that has one of the most restrictive laws in this area. Kentucky is the only state that absolutely restricts all convicted felons from voting and maintains the same voting rights restoration process regardless of offense type, whereas other similarly restrictive states have legally, though not practically, streamlined this process for some offenders. The sample consists of predominantly African-American college students that live and learn as students in Kentucky. It utilizes a modified version of the national survey instrument created by Manza, Brooks & Uggen (2004) - which measured attitudes toward felon enfranchisement based on variations of the correctional status of a convicted criminal and the crime committed by an individual. The data collection instrument was modified to include questions to examine respondent demographic characteristics and moderator variables that may impact opinions toward felon voting prohibitions. The analyses examine the interactions between socio-demographic characteristics, level of knowledge, attitudes towards rehabilitation, and opinions towards the restoration and retention of voting rights. The findings suggest that the majority of respondents favor restoration and retention, though subgroup differences among respondents and subcategory differences among the dependent variables, such as offense type and offender correctional status, determine the level and strength of support for felon voting rights. The implications of the findings are contextualized by examining the importance of voting in a democracy; the significance of examining the attitudes of young African-Americans; the impact of socialization on political opinions; and the effect of legal status and offense type on opinions towards felon voting rights.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

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