Verification of Voter Eligibility: The Process of Disenfranchisement

States and local jurisdictions allow their residents to vote to elect many local, state, and federal officials. However, most jurisdictions restrict the eligibility to vote based on age, citizenship, residency, felony convictions, and, in some cases, even mental capacity. The rules of eligibility can seem simple and straightforward to apply in most cases, but for many people who want to vote, establishing that they meet these eligibility criteria is difficult.   

This project explores the process of registering or staying registered to vote for people in the liminal spaces of eligibility. Traci Burch will construct a theory of the verification of eligibility as processes that create sometimes insurmountable barriers for people who want to vote, bringing separate struggles to verify citizenship, felon status, and residency together under a broader theory of disenfranchisement.   

Burch will collect data and evidence to examine how administrative practices can create these liminal spaces by establishing criteria for eligibility that are unclear, difficult to prove in practice, overly broad, or inaccurate. This data collection effort will also attempt to trace how governments acquire additional information that can verify eligibility, paying special attention to the burden of proof and the types of evidence accepted.