Turnout and Amendment Four: Mobilizing Eligible Voters Close to Formerly Incarcerated Floridians
By Kevin Morris, Brennan Center for Justice
Recent scholarship shows that eligible voters in neighborhoods home to many arrested and incarcerated individuals vote at lower rates than those in less-affected neighborhoods. Little work, however, has investigated how this turnout gap might be counteracted. This paper uses Amendment Four, a 2018 Florida ballot initiative that promised to re-enfranchise most individuals whose voting rights had been revoked due to a felony conviction to investigate whether this turnout disparity can be narrowed by a ballot initiative of particular significance to communities most affected by incarceration. Using prison release records, I identify the neighborhoods and households where formerly incarcerated individuals live and assess the voting history of their neighbors and housemates. I find no evidence that Amendment Four increased these voters’ turnout in 2018 relative to other voters. While ending felony disenfranchisement is necessary, closing the turnout gap resulting from histories of policing and incarceration will require greater investment and engagement.