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Increased Voter Turnout Myth: Prisons Dramatically Disenfranchise Young Black Men

When incarceration rates are accounted for, about the same percent of black males voted in 2008 as in 1980.


Pundits, pollsters, and political scientists have all observed that the 2008 election of Barack Obama coincided with record high voter turnout among young blacks. While the number of young black voters surely broke records, the fraction of young black male voters did not. This will likely also be true in the 2012 Presidential Election, and we can credit the historically large number of young black men behind bars for that.

Incarceration not only determines who is eligible to vote but also who is counted in voting statistics. Inmates cannot vote in 48 states, and they're not included in the data sources used to construct voter turnout rates.

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