My research topic will center on investigating whether varying state laws concerning felon voting rights effect eventual policy making decisions. There has been some research into whether election outcomes are different as a result of these laws, and research has shown that in many races not permitting felons to vote has had an effect. The next logical question to ask, I think, centers on do these laws change policy. I am hoping to use “indicator programs,” or programs that I think felons use heavily or programs which felons would demand more of given the opportunity. I am still working on which programs to use, but I am leaning towards finding a set of maybe three felon specific programs, like job placement, and then another three programs that are generally geared towards lower income people. I think the results will show at least some correlation between higher rates of felon disenfranchisement and lower funding for felon friendly programs. I would also like to consider the effect that felon disenfranchisement has on funding for programs geared toward the poor. If felons, as they do in some states, represent a meaningful percentage of the poor and they can not vote, then it is possible that all poor citizens suffer as a result. Also, should I be able to determine a link between state laws and funding the next question to ask would be to consider possible effects on recidivism rates.
I think the results have the potential to influence policy-makers to reconsider whether state felon restrictions are having a negative effect on society as a whole, and I think that is the most important, and most likely debate-able, part of my paper. There is the potential for some serious negative externalities associated with these laws.
I am really looking forward to getting into more of my research as well as working with other fellows and getting the chance to discuss everyone’s ideas!