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Christie Sennott and John Galliher

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Lifetime Felony Disenfranchisement in Florida, Texas, and Iowa: Symbolic and Instrumental Law

This is a historical study of lifetime felony disenfranchisement (LFD) in Iowa. Such laws typically had their origins in attempts to prohibit black voting in the Deep South after the Civil War, and currently still demonstrate a considerable capacity for depriving African Americans of the vote, Florida being the most infamous case. Curiously, Texas abolished its LFD law in the 1980s. In addition, Iowa maintains its LFD law despite its relatively progressive racial history. The distinction between instrumental and symbolic law is drawn on to explain the origins and maintenance of this legislation in Iowa, in the social context of the post-Civil Rights era and its color-blind racism.

lifetime felony disenfranchisement, symbolic law, race, color-blind racism, voting rights, Iowa, Florida, Texas

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 1 (2006): 79-94