The Reproduction of Social Inequality Through Routine Voter Maintenance

Awarded Scholars:
Lee Ann Banaszak, Pennsylvania State University
Christopher Fowler, Pennsylvania State University
John McCarthy, Pennsylvania State University
Dane Mataic, North Dakota State University
Project Date:
Mar 2021
Award Amount:
$96,918

Inequalities in citizen access to the vote is tied to one’s location in our highly stratified society and differential access to the vote has been associated with voter suppression, unlawful purging of voter rolls, and strict identification requirements. Few scholars, however, have examined the impact of the routine maintenance of voter rolls, mandated by Congress as part of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, on voter access. The rationale for purging voter rolls through routine voter maintenance (RVM) includes factors such as criminal convictions, death, residency changes and infrequent voting. These routine administrative processes remove large numbers of registered voters from state voter rolls: 16 million from 2014 to 2016. These removals raise the question of whether certain groups are disproportionately impacted and to what degree. Political scientist Lee Ann Banaszak and her colleagues will examine how individual and neighborhood characteristics, different bureaucratic processes and political party control of the maintenance process are associated with RVM, especially the effects of purging infrequent voters. Their research questions include: First, does RVM affect some classes of citizens more than others? Second, are state variations in RVM processes related to differential rates of purging? Next, are the political party preferences of state and county-level voter maintenance officials related to differential purging? Fourth, are county-level socioeconomic differences and spatial patterns, such as neighborhood and school segregation, related to differential purging? Finally, how did social disruptions related to COVID-19 affect differential rates of purging?

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